America will rule at rugby sevens if it can be introduced

  • Rugby is never likely to be bigger than NFL in the United States 
  • If USA introduce rugby sevens to its sporting curriculum they’ll be world beaters
  • High schools are the first step to creating traction and a buzz around the sport 

Speak to any kid in America and their dream is to become an NFL superstar. They all want that diamond Super Bowl ring and a front-row seat when Beyonce is doing the half-time show.

Will rugby ever be as big as football in England? No.

Will rugby ever be as big as NFL in America? No.  

Rugby will never be bigger than NFL but neither will rugby in England overtake football

That’s the reality and we should never strive to get there. But there’s still a huge rugby-playing beast waiting to be unleashed in the USA – in all forms of the game – and the key lies in sevens.

It didn’t take me long to realise that the American sporting psyche is all about winning. Second is first loser and, unless you’re winning, it’s always going to be a struggle to get eyes on the game.

Sevens is easier to watch, faster moving and, most importantly, the USA are good at it. World Rugby think XVs is the key to everything because it’s their biggest revenue generator but they need to realise one hat doesn’t fit all. It’s easy for rugby to get stuck in this bubble where it all revolves around England and the All Blacks but then it’s easy to forget there’s the rest of the world out there.

USA have made steady progress climbing into the world's top 20 international teams

USA have made steady progress climbing into the world’s top 20 international teams

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If you can open the door through the sevens, then you get the eyeballs of the American public on the XVs. If the USA won a gold medal in rugby then little Jonny watching on NBC might think, ‘You know what, if I can’t be Tom Brady and win the Super Bowl then maybe I can be Perry Baker’.

We can’t set out to poach the one per cent of players who are destined for superstardom in the NFL but we can try to capture the 99 per cent that don’t make it. How do we do that? We need to get into High Schools. We should be targeting 12 to 18-year-olds to take up rugby as a complimentary sport.

But rugby sevens is key for them to really thrive and make the grade as a rugby powerhouse

But rugby sevens is key for them to really thrive and make the grade as a rugby powerhouse

That’s the golden age. We need to educate and we need adequate financial support a the front of the sevens programme for a domino effect of success.

Nate Ebner is one of the few NFL guys who played rugby as a teenager and, after winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots, he switched over to rugby seamlessly and played at the Olympics. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many cases like that although rugby has just been introduced to the curriculum in Massachusetts and I can’t wait to see the results in six years.

In 1995, the USA were probably five or six years behind England when the game went professional. Now they’re probably 40 or 50 years behind because we’ve been wasting time.

If America fully embraces the women’s game professionally too, they would be World Champions and Olympic Champions in four years as their athletic pool is second to none in the world. Unlike the men’s game there is not the legacy and the game has not been going long enough for anyone to really steal a march. They could blow the doors off.