Jury still out with US players on learning curve

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am


The cavalry might have come for United States rugby, but just what impact it has - or will have - appears to be the subject of some debate.

With sevens making its Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, the feeling has been that the game in the US would benefit greatly from an influx of former American football players looking to change codes. And while it appears a number have now done exactly what was expected, the jury is still out only how quickly they can pick up the level of new skills needed to make a difference.

'There's been quite a few athletes crossing codes, but it's hard for them to adapt,' US captain Shalom Suniula (pictured) said.

'Rugby is a game where you've got to start when you are young. It combines a lot of natural ability and natural instincts. It's a game of anticipation, so the thing with those players is they react really late. That skill only comes through age and experience.'

The main initial positive thing is that sevens is now finding more of an audience - and far more media coverage - in a country where some sports struggle to emerge from under the shadow of the big professional leagues of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.

'There's a lot more attention on the sport in the States now with the Olympics coming up, especially on the West Coast where there are a lot of players from overseas coming now to set up,' Suniula said. 'People are really getting excited.'

The US suffered three losses in pool play, one of them a 42-7 battering at the hands of Wales on Saturday. 'It's been a tough event for us, definitely,' Suniula said.

'The format doesn't give you a breather, but it helps us compete at the level that we want to be at. It's a good way to rate ourselves against the top eight teams in the world.'