This week has been a good week to be an American rugby fan, particularly if you are female. The IRB announced that it was launching an IRB Sevens Series is excellent news to fans, especially considering that the U.S. is not only a core team, but gets to host a leg of the Series. The U.S. Women’s 7’s team, and U.S. women’s programs in general, have slowly been improving themselves and deserve a lot of credit for getting to where they are today. This new Sevens Series is only going to expand the consciousness of the average American fan to the women’s game and bring more players and support to the U.S.A. 7’s program.
For those who missed the announcement, the Series is four rounds with stops taking place in Dubai (Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and coinciding with the men’s event), Houston (Feb. 1-2), Guangzhou (March 30-31), and Amsterdam (May 17-19). These events will of course be followed by the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow in June. There will be six core teams on the Series (Australia, Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.), and the other six teams at each stop will come from the remaining 14 teams in the world top 20. According to the IRB, an expansion of the Series is planned as the Olympics draw closer.
Overall, this is a fantastic turn of events for women’s rugby and something that will help the U.S. team immensely. If you consider that the six core teams have to be medal favorites in 2016, the U.S. has a good chance of medaling. They have beaten the Netherlands and Canada regularly in the past (although Canada has come on strong in the last few years), and have chalked up wins against the other opponents. Plus, the fact that the U.S. team may soon have 15 players under contract (a rise from the 8 they currently have) all playing and training in one location is only going to help the team improve.
The best part of this announcement is that the U.S. is going to host a leg of the Series. All credit should go to U.S.A. rugby for landing the event and for putting in a nice stadium that should draw a decent crowd. Also, having the tournament at a different time as the Las Vegas 7’s is only going to draw further attention to the women’s game, including potential television time. Even though this time may have been a result of U.S.A. Sevens not wanting a competition product during their tournament, it is still a nice benefit.
Still, it would have been nice for the event to come somewhat under the umbrella of U.S.A. Sevens. U.S.A. Rugby will do a good job with the tournament, but they do not have the same media resources, or even the same ability to raise money as the Las Vegas 7’s. Frankly, women’s rugby is just not profitable at almost any level, so U.S.A. Rugby should get the credit for going out and landing a tournament that will help their team succeed.
U.S.A. women’s teams also got a boost this week with the creation of a new website dedicated to covering the teams. The site features news surrounding the team, twitter profiles, video, and bios of the players. Reaching out and engaging fans is something that is lacking in this country at the moment. There is a big block of fans that want to be able to follow players on twitter, they want more video, and they want more personal stories. Credit to the women for doing their part.
This week was also a good week for American rugby fans due to the announcement that AIG is sponsoring the Junior and College All-Americans, as well as some elements of Rookie Rugby. This sponsorship is just the latest in a string of sponsorships announced by U.S.A. Rugby. Previously, it was Aircraft Charter Solutions and their sponsorship of the High School All-Americans that will allow them to travel the world playing tough opponents. Beyond that, Fly Emirates signed on as a significant sponsor to U.S.A. Rugby. These announcements are going to allow U.S.A. Rugby to expand their resources, including personnel like coaches, and make for a better overall program. In particular, the AIG sponsorship may help hire a permanent coach for the Junior All-Americans, something that is desperately needed ahead of next year’s World Junior Championship and for the future.
One of the biggest complaints from fans regarding U.S.A. Rugby CEO Nigel Melville’s time in charge was that he often seemed absent, spending time in Europe or the Southern Hemisphere, and not generally engaged in the work of building American rugby. In particular, they were critical in his perceived inability to fulfill his promises and bring in new sponsorship. This was only further backed up by the loss of the National Guard sponsorship a few years back. However, some of that criticism must inevitably die down as Melville continues to bring in more deals. It’s not only that Melville is bringing in deals, it’s that these deals—particularly AIG and Fly Emirates—are with large corporations with deep pockets, the exact type of sponsorship we need. Nothing short of a multi-million dollar sponsorship that amply satisfies all of the American fanbase’s needs is going to stop his critics, but it must be recognized that he is at least seeing results. U.S.A. Rugby and Melville can and should be doing more, but at least the trend is positive.
American rugby fans should head into this long weekend with a smile on their face. The women’s program got good news, as did the All-Americans. Plus, we still have several players earning a living playing overseas, we have a 7’s team that looks strong heading into the season, and we have an interesting Eagles Selects team that has many players that could surprise. Smiles all around.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.