OF all the people you would not expect to bump into in the US of A, a bunch of rugby players would be high on the list. Well, believe it or not, as soon as I arrived in Los Angeles after a flight from Hong Kong last Tuesday, the first people I saw as I was hurrying to catch my connection to San Diego were the American rugby team on their way to Tokyo for the Japan Sevens. 'Hi, you play rugby for the United States,' was my opening line, as I struggled to keep up with a huge player, who must have been a forward. Looking down, he spotted me and nodded, seeming quite taken aback at the question. Was it because in the United States one hardly gains recognition being a rugby player? 'Yeah, we play for the United States and we are going to play in Japan,' was his answer. 'Oh! Is it the Japan Sevens you are going to?' I pressed. The guy's mouth dropped open. How, he must have thought, did a stranger know what the American rugby team was up to? He nodded, unable to answer. That was the limit of our conversation. He, with the rest of the team, veered off towards a departure counter while I marched on to the transit area and on to San Diego, to keep my date with the America's Cup. That brief encounter made me think that rugby union simply has no chance of ever catching on in the States despite the brave attempts by the USARFU to promote the game. Some time ago, at the Hong Kong Sevens, I met a guy named John Horshok, who was the marketing director of USARFU. He revealed that for a sport to really catch on in the US it must have the support of the media, especially the exposure which television gives - the networks in particular. And in the past few days, scouring through the papers here, one can see that rugby union has a long and uphill battle to win converts. Sandwiched between ads like 'Sexy young models pose just for you' or 'Tammy Boom presents Nite Life' you might see the odd English Premier League score: West Ham 3 Wimbledon 0. But rugby, forget it. As for television, huh! There are 35 channels on the box in my hotel room. Most of them seemed to be perpetually tuned in to the OJ case (poor criminologist Dennis Fung, it seems like he will soon be charged with the murder). The few which are not fixated with OJ entertain Cheers fans, Trekkies or silly talk shows. Well no one talks about rugby let alone show it. But in this gloom, there were two moments when I saw the sun. The first occurred when nursing a Black Label in the hotel's bar in the company of Tom Cruise lookalike John the bartender, and who should walk in but Jesus Francisco. Francisco, or Frank as he likes to be called, turns out to be a restaurateur. We start talking and inevitably the topic turns to sport. And blimey, he knows what rugby is all about - he has even heard of the World Cup. 'Do you know that we play rugby in the United States?' asks Frank. I can't believe it. 'The game is mostly played in the eastern States. I think rugby took root there because those original 13 States were colonised by the English,' explains Frank. 'Maybe one day it might catch on in the rest of the country.' The other moment of enlightenment came a couple of nights ago, when returning to the hotel after a meal. I was walking down the road past the Team New Zealand America's Cup encampment when I heard a voice say: 'So, you play for the British Lions do you?' The reference was to my Lions shirt. He was a Kiwi, involved with the sailing. But despite the encouraging signs which have popped up, somehow, I'm not convinced that rugby union will become as popular in America as grandma's apple pie.