I have always been fascinated by how the American’s approach sport, the constant desire to win, to be number 1 and create a legacy. Whether it’s the NFL or NBA, every player has the dream of winning a championship ring. But there are thousands of athletes who don’t make it, don’t achieve their dreams and never play at the highest level. Imagine if these athletes grew up playing rugby? The US national team would be blessed with talent and could potentially compete with heavyweights in the rugby world.
USA rugby finally seems to be doing something about this, the MLR (Major Rugby league) is a professional competition that has just completed it’s first season this year with the Washington based Seattle Seawolves winning the inaugural championship. The competition consisted of 7 teams in it’s debut season with a further 3 sides joining in 2019. Each team is going to have their own academy and will work closely with schools and colleges in their region. The aim is to develop young talent and be able to get these players competing at a professional level. The MLR tournament is a step in the right direction, but it is still young and “it’s going to take at least another world cup cycle before US reap the rewards of these new structures and MLR” according to head coach Gary Gold. Interest in the sport seems to high as well with Ireland’s game against the All Blacks in Chicago drawing a crowd of 60,000 and games in the MLR consistently sold out.
Speaking of Gary Gold, the former Worcester Warriors head coach seems to have already made an impact since joining at the beginning of this year. The USA won the 2018 Americas rugby championship beating the likes of Canada & Uruguay and going the whole tournament unbeaten. Last month the US beat Scotland for the first time in their history. Victory in Houston is the only time the American’s have beaten a tier one nation and thanks to the MLR, every player on the field or bench play the sport professionally.
Rugby across the Atlantic is still in it’s infancy though and there are still many challenges for the USA to overcome. Differences in time zones mean players have to travel up to 6 hours just to get to the training camp in Denver and it is even worse for players who ply their trade overseas. USA rugby is under- resourced and there is not enough money in the sport yet. At next years world cup the USA will face Argentina, France, England and Tonga. They can realistically only hope to beat the Tongans. But it’s about baby steps and the Americans seem to heading in the right direction. US rugby is long way from conquering the oval ball, but on the field at least there is a glimmer of hope.