Potential for something big for the U.S. and Canada
(Edit: both Canada-Japan, and U.S.-Italy may be completed by the time you read this but hopefully you find this interesting no matter what the outcome of the matches.)
Both the Americans and the Canadians have something big to play for this week. The Eagles head into their final match against Italy, and the Canadians head into their match against Japan, with the opportunity to automatically qualify for the 2015 World Cup. If both teams can pull off this feat it could change the face of rugby in North America.There is no question that rugby is getting continually bigger in North America. One only has to look at the Canadian Rugby Championship and the growth of the 7's game in America to see that something big is happening. Every week it seems that another article comes out to say that more and more kids are playing rugby. But this kind of growth and statements aren't new are they? It seems that the rest of the world is always talking about the what ifs. What if the Americans get more people taking the came seriously? What if Canada and the U.S. had better, regular competition? What if the countries professionalized? Now, I am not suggesting that both nations haven't made tremendous growth over the last decade, they obviously have. Still, it seems that for all the gains, neither country has been able to make the leap and knock on the door the Tier I nations. They reach every World Cup and hope to pick up a win. All of their improvements seem to have put them at the top or mid-level of the Tier II nations. If they are ever going to progress beyond that point they need to pick up some notable wins.
With two wins all of that can change. Automatically qualifying for the 2015 World Cup at the expense of nations that have seen tremendous growth over the next decade may shift more resources toward North America. Look at the nations the U.S. and Canada will be playing. Both Japan and Italy have professional leagues. While not all players in those leagues may be professional, every member of the national teams are. The week-in and week-out competition has helped increased the standard of national team player for both nations. Because many of the players on both teams have the opportunity to either play together every week (Italy) or at least can assemble together quickly and easily (Japan), they play better as a team. Canada has started this effort with their facilities in Victoria, and the Eagles try to get together as much as possible, but both nations are still falling behind in this category.
Both Japan and Italy have seen growth in the amount of resources funneled to youth development in each country. One over-looked aspect of a professional league is the opportunity to bring along youth players. Both the U.S. and Canada could use more resources for their youth programmes. Too many young players finish their youth careers and then have to put rugby on the back-burner in order to feed themselves. If both nations were to pick up wins they could see more resources for developmental programmes.
Victories over Japan and Italy will put increased pressure on the IRB to channel more funding and attention into North America. The Americas Rugby Championship was a nice addition but the tournament could be strengthened. The Churchill Cup has ended and its replacement has yet to have a final verdict. Increased IRB money could help subsidize an 8-10 team league between the two countries, or could help improve tournaments already in place. The location of next year's Junior World Rugby Trophy has yet to be announced. America has been rumoured to be in contention and some international spotlight could help the tournament land in the states.
In addition to potential IRB money, automatic qualification to the 2015 World Cup will draw the attention of both nations Olympic Committees who could increase funding. It could also draw in more sponsors and outside funding. Television exposure to increase, leading to more participation in the youth ranks, and more people attending games. More money means the greater likelihood that more players could be professionalized--the greatest need for continued national team development for both teams.
So if you are a U.S. fan, or a Canadian fan, it is time to put aside the 49th parallel rivalry and cheer for the other nation as hard as you can. A victory for the other could mean a victory for you.
Blog by ThisIsAmerRugby