American rugby has developed an interesting foothold in our sporting world. This foothold is divided between Rugby Union, Rugby League, and Rugby 7’s. A very common scenario involves animated conversations between aficionados of each code that extol the virtues of their favorite while denigrating the other versions and all those who participate in them. The situation often seems to serve as a proxy for class warfare among the constituents.
Not only is that viewpoint counterproductive but it’s completely illogical. Each rugby variation should be judged on its own merit, not compared to the others. Rugby Union, Rugby League and Rugby 7’s are very much unique games with their own value systems and requisite skill sets.
Rugby Union is very much a “Thinking Man’s Game”; truly a triumph of brain vs. brawn. The sense of sport and tradition accompanying Rugby Union provides a wonderful background reflective of its rich history and global appeal. Many American players first play Rugby Union while in college, which may be a contributing factor to its image and the mind-set of the participants.
Rugby League places much more value on a player’s pure physical wherewithal. The raw athleticism on display is incredible, and there is absolutely no place for a player to hide during a Rugby League match. If a player doesn’t possess “The Goods” he’ll quickly be discovered and exploited by the opposition. Rugby League has a strong following of devoted supporters who revel in the tempo and physicality of their rugby code.
Rugby 7’s involves those rare athletes that possess single-digit body fat and supersonic speed. This may be the code best suited for American spectators. A game is brief, has lots of action, plenty of scoring and the players always manage to keep their hair perfectly coiffed. Inclusion in the 2016 Olympics has accelerated Rugby 7’s entrance into the American mainstream. Both USA Rugby and USA 7’s have undertaken efforts to expand the commercial and competitive value of this code. The Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) that USA 7’s has masterminded may be the single best opportunity rugby has to endear itself to the American public.
To my way of thinking, why should a choice between the various codes even be made? There is very little overlap between the playing seasons, and plenty of enlightened players are already playing any form of footy whenever and where ever they can. The broad spectrum of athletic ability and body types among participants may play a huge role in determining the feasibility of an individual’s involvement with a specific code. Why shouldn’t players be encouraged to play any and all forms of rugby, as much as possible? American rugby needs more participants, not fewer choices.
So what do you think? Are these codes different enough to stand on their own, and does America have room for all of them to prosper? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.