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These are some of the important domestic rugby stories in 2016.
- Women’s and Men’s Sevens in Olympics - The inclusion of rugby was voted in by the IOC in October 2009, and then there was uncertainty that both Men’s and Women’s sides would qualify for the Rio Games. The Men’s team – starting with Coach Alex Magelby and currently with Coach Mike Friday - improved substantially, including the team’s first ever circuit win at the season-ending London 7s. The Women qualified by thrashing Mexico, and the men whipped Canada. In Rio, the Men were knocked out of the medal rounds, finishing with three wins for ninth place. The Women played their best game of the year against France for fifth place with outstanding performances from Jessica Javalet and Alev Kelter.
- Dan Payne Appointed s new USA Rugby CEO – After Nigel Melville’s announced departure, the USA Rugby executive research team finally settled on past Eagle player and Life University Athletic Director Dan Payne. The July appointment met with universal endorsement from all rugby groups.
- John Mitchell Signs On as Men’s Head Coach – Former All-Black skipper, John Mitchell was hired in January to replace Mike Tolkin. Mitchell has a four-year contract up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019.
- America’s Cup Championship – World Rugby created this annual, six-nations series to provide North and South American sides more high-level match play. The teams include the USA. Canada, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and an Argentina second XV. The USA’s first match in 2017 will be against Uruguay February 4 in Austin, Texas.
- PRO Rugby’s Inaugural Season – For the first time, the USA experienced a rugby professional league, consisting of five cities. The season ran into July.
- Media Awakens to Rugby -The past year witnessed more articles about rugby than ever before, due in major part, to the summer Olympics and some of the sevens stars, like Perry, Hughes, and Isles. But also, Nat Ebner’s participation generated attention combining the NFL with rugby.
- Fastest Growing Team Sport – This served as the most repeated statement by all media, many new to reporting about rugby. The year enjoyed a high degree of newly formed youth and high school teams, which accounted for the increase.
- Television Offerings – First, NBC offered Olympic airings of the Women’s and Men’s matches. Second, the Rugby Channel launched with an array of domestic and foreign games. Finally, NBC presented the English Aviva Premiership to USA audiences.
- All Blacks vs Ireland, Chicago – A premier, first class international Test match on US soil attracted a sellout crowd of 62,000 at Soldier Field.
- Las Vegas 7s and the Penn Mutual CRC 7s - Both tournaments saw record crowds, especially Las Vegas, whose move to March from February generated greater attendance. The Las Vegas Invitational (LVI) also set a new milestone with over 250 squads coming to play.
- Cal Beat BYU in Varsity Cup - The year's terrific finale with the match up of American college rugby titans saw Cal, down at the half, rally to beat BYU in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.
Let's see what 2017 offers in the New Year,