- By Kevin McCarthy
Rugby in the US always lurks on the edge of our New Zealand consciousness. We know it exists, but we don’t really know much about it or take it seriously.
I remember reading a book once on one of the late 1970s tours which touched down briefly in the US. Stu Wilson remembered in one anecdote, gawping at a passing bus with the location destination of That Away.
I once worked with a guy who actually played the All Blacks on that trip. He was working in Washington or New York and knew something about rugby. He always seemed bemused that he got to play. Darned if I can track down the game, but I am sure it happened.
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders once appeared at Athletic Park when I was watching a test. It was, freakishly unusual for the Park, windy and bleak. I have no idea who the crazy person was who organised this, or why, but the cheerleaders were hugely professional on this down under kamikaze mission.
Do you know the All Blacks toured North America in 1913 (the second visit, after 1905)? Sixteen matches, conceding 6 points. It came (and I quote Wikipedia) when American Football was “widely criticized prompted by worries over violent play, serious injuries and evidence of sharp practice by college coaches.” No change there. But such was the gulf, that it may well have dealt a fatal blow to US interest in rugby (albeit that they won Gold at the 1924 Olympics).
Down the years, spasmodically, the All Blacks have touched down there and dutifully dispatched the local Eagles. We hear rumbles of the potential of US rugby, but it never seems to come too much.
The highlight no doubt has been the All Blacks v Ireland game in Chicago – and the epic of the Irish ending their losing streak. But the US was side-lined, literally, to providing the fans.
All of which is meandering way to react to the news that the US is bidding to host both the men’s and women’s world cups in the not to distant future of either 2027 or 2031.
To which the answer would have to be – yes please! I’ve got no doubt that even though 99 per cent of the population would fail to notice or care, that still leaves a few million to fill those amazing stadiums. Instead of the moribund rotate between the existing world powers, this would be a great expander of the audience for rugby.
We at least know that Americans could handle 90 minutes. After all, an NFL game takes 4 hours (mostly commercials).
Would 2027 be too soon? Well, maybe. Surely World Rugby won’t award it to Russia for that year or any other year hopefully (the other contender is Australia). So, 2031, the USA it is. I can just see President For Life, Donald J Trump, presiding over a very bigly opening ceremony.
No stunning surprises for the weekend game against the Eagles. I would expect they will blow away the opposition in the second half, after a bit of creakiness.
Some of those players haven’t had much game time really, so there should be ton of energy.
The Whitelock captaincy issue may have raised a few eyebrows. Hopefully, it’s not a case of doubts over Sam Cane’s longevity. heading into the World Cup. The last things the All Blacks will need is to have an unsettled leadership.
All stuff to enjoy and ponder over your cornflakes on Sunday morning.