THIS weekend tens of millions of eyes will be glued to television screens as the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, which takes place in Arlington, Texas on February 6th. American aficionados of rugby union can only dream of the Croesian sums of money that are lavished on American football, a sport that vaguely resembles rugby in wimpish armour-plating. But although their resources are far more modest they have achieved some notable successes.
One of them has been to get young Americans engaged with the game. Last year almost 360,000 children played a non-contact form of the sport at school, according to USA Rugby, the sport’s national governing body. That has helped raise rugby’s profile: a study by America’s Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) found that between 2007 and 2009 (the latest year for which data is available), it was the fastest-growing team sport in the country, outpacing rivals such as lacrosse and hockey. In 2009, says the SGMA, some 750,000 Americans played rugby, over 20% more than in 2007. “For the sport to be on our radar screen is a sign it’s got some legs,” says Mike May, an executive at the association.
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