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Dylan Fogel

The third most-watched sporting event in the world is being played right now at various venues throughout France. This tournament, played every four years, had its initial match Sept. 7 and goes until Oct. 20.
It includes teams from 20 nations, and 600 athletes participate. Approximately 2.5 million people will attend one or more of these matches over the course of six weeks, and to put that in perspective, the Chicago Bulls, the team with the highest NBA attendance, drew a little more than 1.6 million people to all of their games in 2007.
I am, of course, talking about the Rugby World Cup, and if you weren’t aware of this fact you are not alone. Rugby is not one of the more popular sports in mainstream America, yet the sixth world cup will have as many as four billion viewers worldwide.
The origins of rugby go back to a game called “sioule” played in France during the Middle Ages. From there, the game evolved. The first documented football club was founded in 1854 by Dublin University and remains the oldest football club in the world.
The first set of rugby rules were written in 1845, but were not considered the standard until the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871.
Eventually countries like Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand started leagues of their own with similar rules. International competition started in 1883 with the International Championship / Five Nations Championship.
By 1948 the Rugby League International Federation was created to oversee the organization of Rugby leagues worldwide.
The Rugby World Cup was slow to get started, though it did have some influential supporters.
The Australian football legend Harold Tolhurst first introduced the idea of a world-cup-style tournament in the late 1950s; however, his idea did not gain support because many of the Rugby unions did not want to play in a tournament that resembled the world cup of soccer.
It wasn’t until 1987 after much debate that the first Rugby World Cup was hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
The United States national team, nicknamed “The Eagles,” has qualified for five of the six world cups. Although still considered one of the weaker countries, the U.S. has gained respect by recently defeating teams like Spain and Canada.
At press time, the U.S. had lost all four of its pool A games, culminating with a 64-15 defeat at the hands of tournament powerhouse South Africa, officially ending their hopes to advance out of pool play.
Maybe one day the United States will be a force to be reckoned with, but historically these gentleman’s games, such as soccer, rugby, and cricket, have had a hard time establishing themselves as sports that kids want to grow up and have careers in. And in general, kids would much rather grow up to be Michael Jordan or Brett Favre than Sebastien Chabal.