Wednesday, June 12, 2013

North American Rugby at an All Time High

Photo: Rugby Canada. Ireland v Canada in Limerick, 2008
Just four days after the biggest ever crowd for a rugby match in the USA Canadian rugby is set to also break new ground. Over 20,000 people are expected to attend Canada v Ireland at the BMO Field in Toronto to set a new attendance record which underlines the growing status of both North American national mens teams´. Canada´s form in recent years has arguably seen its reputation return to where it had been around the time of Rugby World Cup 1999. It is again being compared to the Pacific Islands. The USA, too, has shown great improvement and is subsequently earning itself a reputation as being equal to Canada rather than a clear second in North America.

The crowd of 20,181 at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston was the largest crowd on record for a rugby match in the United States of America. The highly successful occassion combined with the USA´s ability to host the Las Vegas leg of the IRB World Sevens Circuit so well has further encouraged rugby authorities in the country. So much so that USA Rugby has confirmed that it will bid to host the 2018 Rugby Sevens World Cup.

The upcoming Rugby World Cup Qualification series between the USA and Canada is certain to be highly competitive.  England 2015, however, is in the back of the minds of Canada now as the team is instead fully focused on claiming what would be a tremendous scalp. The match against Ireland this coming Saturday sees Canada not only coming off three test victories so far in 2013 but the strong attendance is certain to aid the home side greatly. 

Despite the proposals for a professional rugby to begin in Northern America not eventuating so far the Irish tour illustrates that there is a strong market ready to be exploited by rugby. The venues used in both Houston and Toronto are larger than both Exeter and Gloucester which will host three and four matches each at Rugby World Cup 2015. Both Rugby Canada and USA Rugby can therefore be said to be doing fantastic jobs in promoting rugby in their countries with ability to draw crowds being something vital to encourage sustainable development. 

With the BMO Field hosting the match this Saturday the Toronto venue is continuing to establish itself as the potential home of Canadian international rugby. It marks the third straight year that it has been allocated Canada´s biggest home match of the year. It played host to Canada v Italy in 2012 and Canada v the USA in 2011. Canada competed very well with Italy for much of the match before the Tier One side moved clear in the late stages to seal the result. With Ireland narrowly escaping defeat in Houston and the Canadian team having performed well against Fiji and Tonga recently there certainly are reasons to suggest that Ireland will need to bring its A game or else it could suffer a defeat.  

Canada v Italy 2012

Canada v USA 2011

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