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What are the important rugby stories of 2016 for the USA?
1. The Summer Olympics - The August events for men and women will be the dominant story this year. Rugby, via the seven-a-side version, makes its comeback from the last inclusion in the 1924 Paris games. The world's media will focus on the new event, which, for the men's matches, will showcase Fiji's ball handling and the American sprinters Isles and Baker. Millions of television viewers will witness rugby for the first time ever, especially, in the United States. For NBC, broadcaster of the Las Vegas Sevens and the College Rugby Championship, a positive ratings' outcome could expand the network's seven's television coverage. Will more commercial sponsors; both national and local, become more interested in supporting the seven's game? What boost to USA college and clubs sevens will the Olympics provide?
2. USA Men's 7s Team - A year ago, no one would have predicted that the Eagles would make a spectacular and unprecedented rise in the HSBC World Rugby circuit, capped off by the 2015 London tournament victory. Today, with two tournaments already played (Dubai and Cape Town), the team ranks third. The success of Mike Friday's squad has engendered cautious hopes for the rest of the year with eight-events remaining. Regardless of where the Eagles finish in the 2016 circuit, they will head into the Olympics as possible challengers for a medal.
3. USA Women's 7s Team - The women finished tied for fourth with England last year, and then embarrassed Mexico to gain a spot for the Olympics. The team finished a disappointing 11th (out of 12 teams) in this year's Dubai debut going 0-3 in pool play, and ending 1-4. New coach Julia McCoy has until August to improve on the poor start. The next tournament will be in Sao Paulo, Brazil late February.
4. Men's Eagles Coach Selection - No name as of January 1, 2016. Time is running out on the appointment of a new person who will confront Argentina in the first America's Rugby Championship February 6, a mere five-weeks away.
5. New Professional League Launch - Is this the wished for rugby start of something big? Time will tell. Here's what you need to know about PRO Rugby: Six teams will begin in April playing a proposed ten game schedule through June. Four teams will originate in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver and Sacramento with two more cities to be decided. The initiative is headed by CEO Doug Shoninger with Old Blue's Steve Lewis assisting.
6. America's Rugby Championship - A new tournament to improve rugby in the hemisphere. A round robin with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Uruguay, and the USA competing. An opportunity for the Men's Eagles to play more test matches. Event begins in February and runs weekly until March.
7. Rugby Expanding - Youth. Touch. Flag. Girls. Boys. Colleges. Clubs, Masters. Las Vegas Sevens in March(new date). Varsity Cup in May. College Rugby Championship in June. A big bundle of sevens tournaments in the summer. Finally, the All Blacks will play Ireland at Chicago's Soldier Field November 5. More rugby everywhere.