Last week I experienced the thrill and experience that is the sport of Rugby. Well, the thrill and experience that comes from watching the sport of rugby. Last Saturday, I went to the USA Eagles v New Zealand All Blacks game in Chicago. Packed into a sold out stadium, with 61,499 other screaming fans, I enjoyed my first professional rugby match. This was unlike any display of athleticism I had ever seen. Rugby has the fast-paced and continual play that is exhibited in soccer, with the full contact that one would expect during an American football game. It only took one game because I am now hooked on rugby.
A few years back my brother joined his high school rugby team. While I knew rugby existed as a sport, I knew nothing about it. I went to a few of his games–out of brotherly obligation–but I never really got into the sport (and it was so cold that I barely paid attention). He asked me if I wanted to go with him to this game in Chicago, and I agreed. Not because I particularly cared to see the rugby game, but because the two of us had never taken a trip together alone, as adults. Even the day of the game, I didn’t know what to expect and I thought that not knowing all the rules, that I wouldn’t have a good time (a helpful video that covers the rules of rugby for beginners).
Boy…was I wrong! The atmosphere was unlike any that I had experienced at a sporting event. Those attending the game seemed less competitive in regards to which team would be the victor and more focused on enjoying the events with their comrades within the rugby community. There was a love for the game that goes unmatched with other sports, and this is coming from a die-hard Memphis Grizzles fan–a fan of a team that has united the city of Memphis with its Grit and Grind ways. We love our Grizzles, but this was on a completely different level.
While America was served a large piece of humble pie, losing 74-6, it was the most fun I’ve ever had watching America get dominated by another country. Below is a highlight reel from the game. As you watch the skill exhibited by the players (mainly the All Blacks) and the hard hits dished out by both sides, it is easy to see why rugby is becoming such a popular game.
Among American colleges, Rugby is the largest club sport on college campuses. From 2008 t0 2010, there was a 14% increase in college players registered with USA Rugby. As America’s interest in Rugby continues to grow, we continually see signs of progress. More importantly, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has noticed the increased support for rugby in America. It is likely that we may see the US hosting the Rugby World Cup in the near future. IRB CEO Nigel Melville says, “it’s a question of when, not if.”