Where does rugby fit in the grand scheme of American Sports? Up until recent history the United States has paid little interest to sports outside its borders. Avid American sport goers have really taking stride in bringing soccer into the mainstream; however that's caught on with little degree of popularity - although optimism was spiked during the past World Cup in 2006. Another sport, cricket, which is tremendous in India, South Africa and Pakistan is also feeling the heat of irrelevance - when Americans were asked about the very fundamentals of cricket over 90% could not decipher what instruments, apparel or gear are used to play the game, (survey conducted by Zpryme Research & Consulting, LLC).
Another sport, cycling is still very much a recreational sport in the United States with a very small spectator following- especially since the retirement of Lance Armstrong. However, a sport traditionally foreign to the United States has been catching on in the United States, much to the surprise of many athletic apparel companies like Adidas and Nike is Rugby. “According to USA Rugby, the sport has grown 15 percent annually the past four years, with the biggest and most rapid increase in the youth sector. "Rugby has also exploded in the Northeast and out in the west with many adolescents and high schools - a wonderful primer before entering the club sport at the university level. “The number of high school teams registered with USA Rugby has increased from 150 to more than 500 in the last six years, and there were 679 men's and women's college teams registered last year. "
However Rugby is still far from the revenue juggernaut, Mr. Gridiron, American Football. Still, Rugby is experiencing a strong exposure on most college campuses in the United States and already possesses a loyal legion with both current and past rugby aficionados. These core fans already do their best by employing viral marketing though mediums such as blogs, MySpace.com and university campuses - they loyal fans could easily increase the domino effect of rugby exposure if they saw their sport begin to surface in the mainstream athletic arena.
At a professional level, the United States is approaching decency in the game: they've qualified for the past three Rugby World Cups, and while they have yet to advance past initial play, have delivered hope in their attempts. The 2007 International Rugby Press Association Try of the Year was scored by an American, Takudzwa Ngwenya, who capitalized off an end-to-end transition play against the Springboks of South Africa by outrunning the 2007 international Player of the Year, Bryan Habana down the far wing.
The Future of Rugby?
If rugby continues to grow at its current rate, there will be approximately 1,500 high school teams within the next five years or so. This increase in high school activity will lead to a higher interest in collegiate rugby, and this seasonal cycle will lead to mounting interest with the potential to fund a professional rugby league similar to that of the AFL (arena football league).
Further inspiring the growth of rugby is the news that “USA Rugby and Canterbury of New Zealand (CCC) announced today that CCC has become the official kit provider and exclusive apparel licensee to USA Rugby through May 2012. Under the agreement, CCC will supply USA Rugby with apparel for all Eagles teams, and also commits to the payment of performance bonuses through Rugby World Cup 2011. In addition, CCC will be launching a USA Rugby licensed leisurewear range that will be available to retail stores across America. CCC will also provide a three year academic/rugby scholarship to Loughborough University, one of England's premier Universities. "
"By establishing a relationship with USA Rugby, CCC is pleased to lend its support and 104 years of rugby tradition and experience to the Eagles. " The future certainly looks bright for rugby in the United States. For those that are already fans - they should collectively make it a priority to spread their love for the game to the youth, so that one day it will not be uncommon to see it broadcasted daily on mediums such as ESPN Sports Center or in print in the sports editorial of their local newspaper.
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