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From the Rugby Fan Zone

From the Rugby Fan Zone

I first became interested in rugby when I was in London last fall.  The Rugby World Cup was going on, and it only happens every four years, so it was a big deal.  The 20 qualifying teams played more than 40 matches across England and Wales over a six-week period.  It was impossible to miss the news coverage!  I also ran into some of Ireland’s players at Canary Wharf, which was interesting.

We don’t hear much about rugby in the States, so I was a bit surprised to learn the USA Eagles were one of the participating teams.  They played four matches – one against every team in their pool – and sadly, they lost all four.  The New Zealand All Blacks ended up winning the Cup.  That wasn’t a surprise since they’re considered to be the best team ever to play the game.

Of course rugby isn’t as popular in the US as in the UK, but apparently it’s on the upswing.  It’s the fastest growing team sport in America, with a growing number of youth and college teams across the country.

My nephew has played youth football for a number of years, and he recently developed an interest in rugby.  When we went to the Chicago Scots’ annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games back in June, he wanted to see one of the matches in the festival’s rugby tournament.  Unfortunately, I dawdled over the other activities.  By the time we made it to the field, the last match had just ended.  When I heard that USA Rugby was sponsoring Rugby Weekend in Chicago, it seemed like the perfect way to make it up to him.

The USA Eagles were playing the Maori All Blacks at Toyota Park on November 4, and Ireland was taking on the world champion New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field on November 5.  We opted for the USA vs. Maori All Blacks match and had a blast.  Toyota Park is  well-designed, and even with less expensive seats, we still felt close to the action.  The stadium didn’t even feel that crowded, despite the sell-out audience of 18,000 fans.

My husband downloaded a handy two-page guide to the rules of the game from the Rules of Sport website so we could review the basic rules.  I also discovered that my nephew knows a surprising amount about the game.  That meant he could explain things when I got confused.  Even though I couldn’t always tell what was going on, I loved the fast pace of the game.  There are none of the interminable time-outs you find in football, so there’s continuous action on the field and the matches only last 80 minutes.  That was the perfect length for a chilly November evening.

The Maori All Blacks dominated the game and ended up winning 54-7, but with great seats, $4 hotdogs, and Guinness on tap, we still had a grand day out!

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