Can the visit of the All Blacks awaken USA interest in rugby?
This weekend will prove to be a very special occasion in the history of American rugby. The current best team in the world, the mighty All Blacks of New Zealand
, will travel to Soldier Field in Chicago to take on the USA Eagles in what will undoubtedly be a thrilling game. The match will set a record attendance for a rugby game in America, with just over 61,000 supporters expected, dwarfing the previous record of 20,181, when the Eagles played Ireland in 2013. This new record is just one of the many signs that the popularity of rugby is growing across the pond, in a country dominated by American football, hockey, baseball and basketball.
The USA Eagles governing body was founded in 1975, only 39 years ago, and it wasn’t until 1987 that they became affiliated with the IRB. However, America has had a successful history in the sport, dating back over a century. The Eagles first international match was played in California in 1912, where they played Australia, losing narrowly 12-8. Less than ten years later, and America were Olympic gold medal winners, defeating France in the final, before repeating the same feat four years later against the same opposition. Following the 1924 Olympics, rugby union was removed from the Olympics, meaning the United States are reigning Olympic champions, ahead of the upcoming return of the sport to Rio in 2016.
American rugby went downhill for almost 40 years following the Olympics, however, but picked up again in the 1960s, and since then the Eagles have begun to rack-up regular matches against top quality opposition. The World Sevens Series has also become a massive part of American rugby. The Las Vegas leg of the world tour is one that is highly anticipated around the nation, with thousands turning out each year to watch some of the superstars of sevens rugby. USA have also managed to qualify for every Rugby World Cup since 1987, excluding 1995, with their best finish coming in 1987, when they finished 10th
overall. Although their current ranking is fairly low - 18th
in the most recent IRB rankings - the quality of players they continue to churn out bodes well for the future. Flyers such as Biarritz winger Taku Ngwenya and former Glasgow Warriors player and USA sevens superstar Carlin Isles have set the rugby world alight, as well as monster forwards including Todd Clever and Samu Manoa.
In Fall 2014, BLK took over from Canterbury as official kit suppliers to USA Rugby. Australian brand BLK are shirt suppliers to many professional teams around the world, including Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels, Western Force and Sharks in Super Rugby, as well as Toulouse of France and Connacht in Ireland. The three year deal with BLK covers the 2015 Rugby World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, meaning USA Rugby will compete in high performance, technical apparel throughout these major tournaments. You can buy the latest BLK USA Eagles Replica Kit and Leisure Wear
online at rugbystuff.com now.
The nation has a bright future, and this weekend will prove to the world that the Eagles are an up-and-coming country in terms of skill and passion within the sport, and the All Blacks will have to play at their best to get a result they so desire from the match.
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