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England vs. Eastern RFU - 1982

By 1982, the USA had fielded several international teams playing national sides from other countries at home or away on tour. It was the accepted belief that these matches would give the American national and regional fifteens valuable experience against superior rugby competition.

In 1982, England embarked on an eight-game North American tour, playing six games in the States and two in Canada. The Red Roses went 8-0, defeating the two national sides handily.


The tour opened in Toronto where England defeated Canada East 52-3. Then, on to Vancouver where Canada fell 43-6.


The first contest in the USA witnessed England beating the USA Cougars 26-6 in Bothell, Washington, north of Seattle. It would mark the closest game of the tour.

Three English wins followed:

England 28 – 6 Pacific Coast - Long Beach. CA

England 45 – 6 Western RFU – Dallas, TX

England 58 – 7 Midwest RFU  – Cleveland, OH

The seventh game against the Eastern RFU occurred in Manhattan’s Gaelic Park, which proved an unsatisfactory pitch for such an important tour. The British press were appalled at the poor condition of the field. The match generated no local media coverage and saw very few fans in the stands. England triumphed easily via a 41-0 shutout.

The final encounter – and the one which engendered the most interest – occurred in Hartford, Connecticut, where England played the USA Eagles in front of 9,000 in attendance. The disparity in rugby skills and experience showed throughout the match as England thumped the USA 59-0. It revealed all the shortcomings when a lesser skilled nation competed against a much superior side.

The Eagles team:

1          Whelan            Akron

2          Miles               KC Blues

3          Jelaco              BATS

4          Burlingham     Irvine Coast

5          Causey            Baton Rouge

6          Niebauer ©     BATS

7          Fowler             Santa Monica

8          Lambert           White Plains

9          Bateman          Old Blues

10        Smith               UCLA

11        Purcell             BATS

12        Shanagher       BATS

13        Helu                Old Blues

14        Halliday          Grand Rapids

15        Gunn               Old Puget Sound

The Photo – Six Degrees of Separation

Yes, the English scrumhalf in the photo is Nigel Melville who would become CEO of USA Rugby for many years. Yes, the photographer is A. Jon Prusmack who would become the owner of United World Sports LLC (USA Sevens, Penn Mutual College Rugby Championship, Varsity Cup, etc.) Many years after 1982, Melville and Prusmack would meet often to discuss commercial rugby ideas in the USA.