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(In 1976, the Pacific RFU scheduled a game against the Australians. But the newly formed USARFU decided to substitute an official national XV for the regional side in this first ever test match for the newly formed Union founded in 1975.)
"Storer thinks Yanks won't do badly."
In January of 1976, the United States of America Rugby Football Union announced surprising news, the first official international game with a visiting Australian XV, returning home from a 25-game match tour in the UK.
For the first time in the modern era, a match would occur between a noted rugby nation and a national squad of eager Americans, anxious to showcase their native rugby talent to the world. (N.B. In 1976, the game was played under the old scoring at four points for a try.)
The news of the contest to occur in southern California was met with mixed opinions; many perceived the game was premature since the Americans had no named team with any play or practice experience. These naysayers argued why send an ad hoc, hurriedly selected squad against the mighty Wallabies? Others considered it an opportunity to demonstrate the development of the game in the States.
The USARFU Board of Governors argued until a two third’s majority vetted the green light for the game. It was financially unfeasible for the nascent Union to fund the tour so outside assistance was needed. The selected players would have to pay their own travel expenses.
The assembled team would have but five-days to prepare, hardly enough time to shake hands to get acquainted. No one seemed to object to the last minute preparations; excitement buzzed from coast to coast.
A Pollyannaish editorial in Rugby Magazine, mostly, national boosterism and little else, stated, "It is not that farfetched to entertain the notion that USARFU national side possess a near-even money chance to defeat the visiting Australian side."
Coach Dennis Storer offered a more pragmatic analysis: "...we (USARFU) didn't expect that a national team would play international competition until 1977 of 1978, and then against Canada. In this game...the rugby world is watching with great interest."
Perhaps the most encouraging comment came from the President of the Australian rugby Football Union who ended his official letter with, "I hope that this international match will be the first of many to come in the future."
And, providently, it was.
(Part II - The First Game: Aussies vs. USA)