- United States national rugby union team
"For the American
rugby leagueteam see United States national rugby league team."Rugby team
country =United States
union = USA Rugby
nickname = The Eagles
ranking = 20
emblem = the
coach = flagicon|Australia Scott Johnson
from = 2008
IRB ranking = 20
Highest ranking = 14 (Nov. 2, 2006 - Sept. 10, 2007)
top scorer =
most tries =
pattern_la1 = _redwhiteblue_stripes
pattern_b1 = _white_shoulderside
pattern_ra1 = _redwhiteblue_stripes
body1 = 1E90FF
shorts1 = 000080
socks1 = 000080
leftarm2 = FFFFFF
body2 = FFFFFF
shorts2 = FFFFFF
socks2 = FFFFFF
first = ru|AUS 12 - 8 ru-rt|USA|1912
September 16, 1912)
bigwin = ru-rt|USA 91 - 0 ru|BAR
July 1, 2006)
bigloss = ru|ENG 106 - 8 ru-rt|USA
August 21, 1999)
World cup apps = 4
year = 1987
best = One win in 1987 and 2003
IRB ranking = 20
Highest ranking = 14 (Nov. 2, 2006 - Sept. 10, 2007)
USA Rugby's men's national team is nicknamed the Eagles. The Eagles are currently ranked 20th by the IRB World Rankings. Their highest ranking was from November 2, 2006 - September 10, 2007 at the 14th position. The
United Stateshave always been considered a rugby unionminnow, but through professionalism, the Eagles are making improvements in coaching, management and player development, and as a result have improved on the field. The Eagles have a potentially huge pool of players as many Americans play American footballin high school and college but give up playing at some point during or at the end of their school years. However, because very few Americans grow up playing rugby union, with the majority of players not taking up the game until college (or even later), the average American player has far less rugby experience than most players of the same age in countries where it is played with more frequency. For example, the team's all-time caps leader, Luke Gross, did not seriously take up rugby until he had graduated from Marshall University, where he played basketball. [cite web|url=http://web.usarugby.org/cgi-bin/viadesto/natteams/mnt/15ProfileDetail.pl?playerId=15 |title=Men's National Team Player Profile – Luke Gross |publisher=USA Rugby |date=2008-01-15]
With the sheer size of the USA, coupled with relatively few fixtures, the Eagles squad only get together before games and for periodic evaluations. Selections are in part made from talent spotting done at USA Super League matches, although some of the best players now compete for European clubs, offering valuable practice and playing experience. Ranked 20th in the world by the IRB (as of July 22, 2008). There are also the bi-annual Pan American championships, which can also double as the Americas zone World Cup qualifiers.
The USA is also involved in the implementation of the NAWIRA zone competition, which will give North American and West Indies sides regular competition. The one area that has seen improvement for the USA internationally is in the game of Sevens where the Eagles have impressed on the IRB World Sevens circuit, winning the Shield at the 2008 New Zealand Sevens event and losing a close match to Argentina 26-21 in the Bowl Final at the 2008 Australia Sevens event.
Competing in international tournaments like the
Churchill Cupand the Pan American Championship, as well as specially scheduled matches against world powers such as France and Ireland, the Eagles have qualified for four of the five Rugby World Cups, missing out in 1995. At the 1987 World Cup they beat Japan but lost to Australia and England, in 1991 they lost all their games. In 1995 the Eagles defeated Canada on Canadian soil, for the first time ever by a score of 15-14.
Rugby was introduced into the United States by British immigrants in the mid-19th century. In 1872, there were rugby clubs flourishing in the
San FranciscoBay Area, composed mainly of British expatriates.
On 2 December 1882, the first Californian representative rugby team to play an outside opponent, took on a group of rugby-playing ex-Britons, who called themselves the Phoenix Rugby Club of San Francisco. California lost to the Phoenix club 7-4. This was the start of the Californian rugby tradition.
The sport of
rugby unionin the United States has always had a close relationship with the sport of American football. Games of rugby, soccerand hybrid games had always been played between American universities, the first recorded game took place in May 1874 between Harvard Universityand McGill Universityin Cambridge, Massachusetts. While there are no records of the match and no one remembers who won, the game sparked an interest on college campuses nationwide.
In 1876 Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia formed the
Intercollegiate Football Association, which used the rugby code, except for a slight difference in scoring. The modern sport of American footballis a descendant of these rules. In 1886 Harvard's Oscar Shafter Howard introduced these rules to the Berkeley campus.
American football was fierce, and as time went on and injuries mounted, the public became alarmed at its brutalities. President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to outlaw the sport unless the national rules committee made changes that satisfied the Eastern schools. Beginning with the season of 1906, rugby union became the game of choice at
Stanford University, the University of Californiaand several other colleges in California but the sport had died out by the outbreak of World War I.
The first USA international was played on November 16, 1912 at Berkeley against the Wallabies. The visitors won the match 12-8. A year later the USA hosted New Zealand at the same venue, but the score was not nearly as close, and the New Zealanders ran away with the contest 51-3.
USA at the Olympics
Rugby union hadn't been played competitively in most of the USA for more than a decade prior to the 1920 Olympics, the US Olympic committee replied, "due to the fact that California is the only state playing Rugby in the US, the Committee will give sanction but no financial aid".
The Olympic Games Committee of the Amateur Athletic Union paid the expenses to transport the team from California to the games in Antwerp [A.A.U. to pay expenses of Rugby Team to Olympics, N.Y. Times, June 4, 1920] . By the time the US Rugby team arrived in Europe, Czechoslovakia and Romania had withdrawn from the competition, France and USA were the only teams left to compete. The USA won a shock 8-0 victory and the gold medal. The stunned French suggested that the US team tour France, which they did; winning three out of the four matches they played.
Between 1920 and 1924, Rugby union virtually disappeared once again as American-style football soared in popularity. But the 1924 Paris Olympics caused France to challenge the US to defend its title. Once again, the US Olympic Committee granted permission but no funds. Nonetheless, seven players of the 1920 team dusted off their boots, raised $20,000, and found some American football players who had never even seen a rugby union match, and headed for England-where they were trounced four times in practice sessions.
The French Olympic Committee (FOC) had scheduled the rugby event to kick off the 1924 Paris Games, and lowly Romania and the USA were expected to provide only token opposition for the European Champions. On Sunday, May 11th , the US pounded Romania 39 to 0, including nine tries, at Colombes Stadium. The final was played at Colombes Stadium, Paris, on May 18, 1924 before a crowd of more than 30,000 [U.S. Team is Hissed by French When it Wins Olympic Title, N.T. Times, May 19, 1924] . Paris bookmakers set the odds at twenty to one: The French team was one of the strongest ever assembled. To everybody's surprise the Americans were victorious again by 17 to 3.
Shortly after the 1924 Olympics, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) removed rugby union as an Olympic sport. Without the Olympic incentive, the sport’s growth in America collapsed and the game remained dormant.
The sport then enjoyed a renaissance, beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1970s. This created the need for a national governing body to represent the USA in the International rugby community. Four territorial organizations formed the United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby) in 1975. The first Eagles match was played in Anaheim in 1976 against Australia, the Wallabies won 24-12.
The USA also performed well against France in Chicago, losing the game 33-14. The next season the Eagles played two internationals, one against England (XV-not capped) at London-Twickenham, which they lost 37-11, and the other against Canada, which they also lost, 17-6. The USA played the Canadians again in 1978, and defeated them 12-7 in Baltimore. They then travelled to Canada in 1979 and lost to the national team 19-12 in Toronto.
The national team came to further prominence during the 1980s, and from the start of the decade, were playing a notably larger number of games every season. They did however lose all three of their games in 1980, all at home. They could not muster up a win in 1981 either, losing 3-6 to Canada, and 7-38 to the South African Springboks. The USA then drew Canada 3-all in 1982. The next year they travelled to Australia to play the Wallabies, and lost 49-3 in Sydney. Wins followed against Japan and Canada.
In 1987, the USA were invited by the IRB to participate in the first ever Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. The USA were in pool 1, alongside co-hosts Australia, England and Japan. In their first ever World Cup game, the USA got off to a winning start, defeating Japan 21-18 at
Ballymore Stadiumin Brisbane. The USA lost both subsequent matches; 47-12 against the Wallabies and 34-6 against the English. The USA finished 3rd in the pool, but out of contention of the finals. The Eagles first met Wales at Cardiff in November 1987. Wales, fresh from finishing third in the inaugural World Cup, enjoyed a 46-0 win.
The USA qualified for the 1991 Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom, making their way through a qualifying tournament, and pooled with World Champions New Zealand, hosts England and Italy in a very tough group. In their first match of the tournament at
Otley, Italy defeated them 30-9. At Gloucester, New Zealand defeated them 46-6 but still USA's captain Mark Sawicki had some knock out hits as usual removing 3 of the All Blacks's players during the match. New Zealand hosts England won 37-9 at Twickenham. The USA finished fourth in the pool.
The USA defeated Bermuda 60-3 in round one of the Americas qualifying tournament for the
1995 Rugby World Cupot advance to round two. Although close games, Argentina defeated the Eagles twice in the series to qualify and leave the USA behind. The Eagles went close to beating a major nation at rugby union match against Australia at Riverside in 1994 when USA lost 22-26.
The Eagles, having missed out on South Africa 1995, set out to qualify for the
1999 Rugby World Cupin Wales. In round four of the Americas tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the United States did not get off to an ideal start, losing 52-24 to Argentina and 31-14 to Canada. They defeated Uruguay 21-16 in their last game to qualify for the 1999 tournament.
The Eagles were in pool E, alongside Australia, Ireland and Romania. In their first game of the tournament, the USA went down 53-8 in Dublin to Ireland. They were unlucky not to win the Romania encounter, with Romania winning 27-25. Australia defeated the Eagles 55-19 in their final game of the tournament, seeing the Eagles finish fourth in the pool.
and Canada. This was the first time the Eagles had won four consecutive tests since making their international debut in 1976. The Eagles finished fourth of five in their pool. In the first match against Fiji, an upset was brewing. The Americans were leading 6-3 at the half, then 13-3 minutes into the second half. Fiji eventually regained the lead, but with a try at the death, the Americans trailed by a point at 19-18 with the conversion kick to come. Unfortunately Mike Hercus was unable to convert and the Eagles suffered their ninth consecutive World Cup loss. The streak ended however after the Americans defeated the Japanese, as they did in their only other World Cup victory in 1987.
The Super Powers Cup was first contested in 2003 between Japan, Russia and the United States. For the 2004 Super Powers Cup with the addition of Canada. The USA beat Russia in the third-place play-off. The 2005 Super Cup took part between the USA, Canada, Japan and Romania. The USA lost 30-26 to Canada but beat a Romanian team stripped of their France-based players 23-16 in the third place play-off.
The USA began their campaign to qualify for the
2007 Rugby World Cupin Franceduring July 2006, in Round 3b of the Americas tournaments, pooled with Canada and Barbados. The USA defeated Barbados 91-0 in their first game, but lost 56-7 to the Canadians in the last pool game, sending Canada through, and relegating the USA to a home/away play-off with Uruguay. The USA came from behind to defeat Uruguay 42-13 in Montevideo in the first match. Winning the second 26-7 sent them through to the World Cup. They qualified as Americas 3, joining England, Samoa, South Africa and Tonga in Pool A.
In the 4th round, the Eagles, ranked 13th in the world standings, lost all 4 games in Pool A, scoring 1 pool point in the game against Samoa. Coached by Peter Thorburn (a New Zealander who recently was the coach for the New Zealand provincial team North Harbour), the Eagles started off with tough match against the defending world champions England, losing 28-10. Following this loss, the US was beaten by Tonga 25-15, losing to Samoa 25 - 21 and finally to highly favored South Africa 64 - 15. The Eagles, however, had one major highlight in the South Africa match. After an interception and a pair of passes,
Takudzwa Ngwenyasped down the sideline and outran Bryan Habana, arguably the fastest man in world rugby, to score a try that received Try of the Year honors at the 2007 IRB Awards.
Women's National Team
The U.S. Women's National Team, officially formed in 1987, has been an international powerhouse since its inception. The Eagles won the first official World Cup in 1991, and finished second in the two following World Cups (1994, 1998). The Eagles have set the standard for international competition, leading an ensuing wave of women's rugby growth and game development worldwide.
The next Women's Rugby World Cup is in August/September 2006 in Edmonton, Canada. Despite finishing 7th in the 2002 tournament, the USA is actually seeded 6th. They are bumped up ahead of Australia, who beat the USA in the 2002 tournament 17-5, because Australia hasn't played any international matches since the last World Cup.
The USA Rugby Women’s National Team had its first test matches in over a year when the Women Eagles traveled to the United Kingdom in January 2006 to play Scotland (Jan. 21), Ireland (Jan. 25) and England (Jan. 29). The team won all three games. The Eagles’ travel squad includes 30 players, including 19-capped veterans.
North America 4
* Rugby Super League
Rugby union in the United States
Rugby World Cup
Super Powers Cup
* [http://www.usarugby.org USA Rugby Official Site]
* [http://www.womeneagles.com Womens Eagles Official Site]
* [http://weloverugby.blogspot.com We love rugby] Coverage of the Rugby World Cup 2007
Notes and references
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