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USA Rugby announced Saturday that the organization is now an Olympic Sport member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). 

The USOC Board made the decision Saturday after a thorough review of USA Rugby’s operations and the organization overall. USA Rugby also presented and fielded questions at two public hearings. 

Following one of the hearings, a USOC member sent USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville a letter praising the organization on their presentation. The letter, read on air during RuggaMatrix America show #32, indicated that USA Rugby had made a very positive impression.

Asked to comment on that letter last week, Melville said, “we were the 10th in a long line of sports, and you don’t know what goes on before or after. We’d never done it before and you don’t know what they want to hear. We got a pretty in-depth grilling, but overall the feedback was very positive, and when you’re being compared to the big guys, the big sports, you feel you’re probably doing OK.”

USA Rugby had been an Affiliated Sport member of the USOC since 1998, but the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) vote last October to include rugby sevens in the 2016 Olympics made possible USA Rugby’s new membership status in the USOC. The USOC Board’s action today confirms USA Rugby as the official National Governing Body (NGB) of rugby in the United States.

Melville and USA Rugby Vice Chairman, Bob Latham, were in Colorado Springs this week to ensure USA Rugby’s approval. 

“This is great news for USA Rugby. Since the announcement that rugby would return to the Olympic Games, we have developed a strong partnership with the USOC and look forward to making a positive contribution to the Olympic family in the future,” said Melville. “The game of rugby is growing at an incredible rate as thousands of young Americans are picking up the ball and running with it for the first time and dreaming of Olympic glory in 2016 and 2020.”

The United States men’s sevens rugby team will participate in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico in October of next year. Both the men’s and women’s teams will compete to qualify for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.

Full membership in the USOC is one of the major steps to putting USOC resources behind the US 7s teams.

“How does it change things? Right now access to better training facilities, more sports science support. Maybe we get some residency, increased insurance, and opportunity to train more consistently,” said Melville. “But the USOC only funds in a four-year cycle, so we’re not due any money. Still they know that in order to compete in 2016, we can’t wait two to three years for money. China and Russia are developing, and the USOC is aware of that.”