October 31, 2014

IT'S OVER IN TWO HOURS AND THERE ARE NO ADS:

Can America Rule Rugby? (MATTHEW FUTTERMAN, Oct. 31, 2014, WSJ)

A classic barroom debate centers on whether America could dominate sports it doesn't excel in if only we could repurpose some of our many elite athletes. Ordinarily, it's just talk.

But as the U.S. scrambles to field two competitive rugby teams ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where seven-on-seven rugby will debut as an Olympic sport, that hypothetical discussion has become a practical exercise here on the parched grass of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, a few miles north of the Mexican border. Each day, men and women who starred in football, soccer, basketball and hockey--some as recently as a few months ago--try to learn the art of rugby, a form of football that is largely foreign to Americans.

Ahman Green, a former Green Bay Packers star running back, tried out last year. Elana Meyers, a U.S. bobsledder who won a silver medal in this year's Sochi Winter Olympics, gave it a whirl in the spring. Neither is in the current player pool, but plenty of others are showing promise.

"If I'm getting a terrific college hockey player who just graduated, she's the right age, she's disciplined and I know I don't have to teach her how to train," said Ric Suggitt, the head coach for the U.S. women, "I just have to teach her how to play rugby."

This grand experiment is happening against the backdrop of rugby's first major push to become part of the U.S. sports landscape. On Saturday in Chicago, the world's most famous rugby team, New Zealand's All Blacks, will take on the USA Eagles--the U.S. national team--at sold-out Soldier Field.

Posted by at October 31, 2014 7:41 PM
  

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