January 23, 2011

American Rugby on the Rise: NBC is making a push into rugby, televising February's U.S. Rugby Sevens tournament quarterfinals and finals live and the Rugby World Cup. There are 2,650 rugby clubs in the U.S., a 32 percent increase since 2004, according to NBC Sports.

posted by rcade to other at 12:36 PM - 6 comments

Rugby is a good game, and I am grateful to see one of the major networks giving it more exposure. It is certainly a very physical and demanding game, though not quite as dangerous (in my opinion) as football (i.e. no blocking, no high/dangerous tackling)--and there is a lot more action since play does not stop with every tackle or turnover. If it would catch on in the US, it could be a good alternative at the high school level for kids who want to be part of a team sport but are not quite big enough to make the football squads.

While I prefer the full 15-player rugby union variety, a good sevens match is usually exciting--fewer players most often means more movement of the ball and more scoring. Thanks NBC.

posted by billinnagoya at 08:25 PM on January 23

Interesting article, spending most of the time talking about the carnival atmosphere in the stands. That's Vegas, I guess.

They also didn't highlight the most entertaining team in Sevens - the Fijians. Look out for them if you're at the matches or watching on TV.

posted by owlhouse at 12:36 AM on January 24

Sevens is going to be in the 2016 Olympics, and US broadcast rights for Rio (and Sochi in 2014) haven't yet been settled: NBC tends to show at least nominal interest in "minority" Olympic sports beyond the three-week spectacle in order to keep the IOC happy, and this may be another example. (They may well have got a decent deal on the World Cup, too.)

A sevens tournament makes for a packed couple of days: the matches are only 15 minutes long, and for the IRB World Series events, you usually get to see all 24 pool matches in a single day. (In Vegas, there'll be 28.)

If NBC is planning on educating viewers as they go, they'll have to make a big leap for the World Cup. Still, the US sevens team has been doing well, and there are likely to be players who make it to the World Cup (which is increasingly rare for most countries); the growing Samoan presence, including players who learned their trade in NZ, isn't a bad thing either.

posted by etagloh at 02:06 AM on January 24

If you have BBC America, they're showing the Six Nations tournament at the start of Feb - England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy in their regular competition.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 09:42 AM on January 24

I've been intrigued by rugby ever since Russell Crowe got the Leed Rhinos to come to Jacksonville to play the South Sydney Rabbitohs. But the multiple versions of rugby have been confusing enough to keep me away from sampling the sport.

posted by rcade at 12:36 PM on January 24

Rcade, it is not nearly as confusing as you'd think. I've only been watching rugby for a couple of years, ever since my son started playing. Still, I've caught on to the basics pretty quickly--and learned to really like the game.

While there are some important differences between Union and League, I'd describe them as something akin to the differences between National and American league baseball (or maybe the differences between baseball and the different variations of softball); that is, significant but not so drastic as to make the games mutually unintelligible. The fundamentals are the same, whether it be union, league, or sevens (Aussie rules is a different story): teams score by grounding (downing) the ball in the opponent's end zone or kicking the ball through the uprights and over the crossbar; there is no forward passing--the ball can only be advanced by running it or kicking it; a player must be onside to be involved in the play. Once you've got that, the rest is not so hard to figure out.

posted by billinnagoya at 08:54 PM on January 24

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