How common is rugby in the US?

Just watched Scorsese’s film The Departed, 2006, and near the beginning there was a game of rugby between Boston police and firemen. Is the sport very popular over there? Is it mainly confined to certain areas such as the East Coast or is it social rather than geographical, ie is it played by the more testosterone-laden professions such as the police, the fire service, the military, etc.?

It’s very much a niche sport. I’ve known people who’ve played it, but most people, I’d wager, have (a) never played it, and (b) know little to nothing about it.

I know that here, in Chicago, there are some leagues, and it would not surprise me if it’s (relatively) more popular in cities with ties to the British Isles (like the Irish in Boston).

Two of my best friends here grew up in Dublin; they have been very excited about the Six Nations competition over the past few weeks, but they had to get some sort of online subscription to even be able to watch the matches.

Played in U.S colleges fairly regularly I think; George W Bush played for instance.

Apropos of nothing, I remember seeing an interview of an NFL player in the U.K, and when he got the predictable “American football is rugby for sissies”:D, replied that he had in fact, played Rugby in college, which shut the interviewer up. No idea how common that is; although at least one Rugby Sevens player for the US in Rio was an active NFL player (and IIRC Super Bowl winner).

According to this Wikipedia article, college rugby in the U.S. is usually a “club” sport, rather than a “varsity” sport, which means that it’s not regulated by the NCAA or NAIA, and that they may not be receiving much in the way of support from the schools, and don’t offer scholarships, IIRC.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_rugby

As others have said, it’s a pretty limited sport, in terms of participants.

In my experience, it’s also pretty heavily populated (especially at the post-college level) by ex-pats from rugby-playing nations like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. A bit like cricket, which also has a disproportionate number of players from cricket-playing nations, like India and Pakistan, the West Indies, Australia, England, etc.

It’s worth noting that there are quite a few women playing rugby here as well. Here in San Diego, my afternoon softball games a few years ago were often played on a field right next to where a women’s rugby team was practicing.

My niece played rugby in college in Minnesota; she’s the only one I know of. Either very few people have played it, or they don’t mention it. I don’t know of a local team or league.

I live in the Boston area and I have never seen it played here. I am certain that it exists somewhere around especially at the colleges but it is even less common than soccer and maybe a little higher than cricket (I have never seen cricket in person and can’t understand it at all even though I have tried). The only time I have ever been exposed to Rugby was during college. However, like others said, those are usually just informal leagues and ours (male and female) just played in whatever space they could get on Saturday mornings.

I think most Americans know vaguely what Rugby is but not much about the specific rules or just about anything about international teams. It is mostly viewed as a primitive form of American football whether that is justified or not.

As others have mentioned, rugby is probably most popular in the club and intramural level of U.S. colleges.

My domestic partner played lock in college, both at Connecticut College and also when she was studying abroad at University College Dublin. At Connecticut college she was on the club team. While at Dublin, she was on the Ireland Under 20 team. She was given offers to move to an actual league, but didn’t want to become a resident for a low amount of Euros.

I know it gets played in Milwaukee, but I think it’s mostly self organized clubs/groups. I don’t know that any of the colleges or high schools play it (at least not on a competitive level). From what I can tell, based on the people I know that play it and what I see IRL and on FB, it seems to be about as popular as Roller Derby. Rugby gets a little bit more visibility because it’s an outdoor sport and, in MKE, it’s played on field adjacent a well traveled road and and since the uniforms and obviously rugby uniforms, you know what they’re doing. OTOH, the Milwaukee Roller Derby (self) advertises like mad, they’re all over facebook and you practically can’t walk into a bar around here without being hit in the face with a poster that tells you when their next match is.

Some very quick poking around shows me that all the local rugby facebook pages have a few thousand likes/followers and the one local roller derby has about 10,000. Considering how much more they RD club pushes the social media, I’d call that about equal. The rugby players really seem to be out there just to play the game and less so for an audience.

Now, you’re question was how popular is it over there, I assume you mean in the US as opposed to England. The answer is, not very. Yes, people play it, people that don’t play it know what it is. But it’s not (American) football, it’s not soccer, it’s not baseball or hockey or even wrestling.
The few people that I know that play it are pretty serious about it, but I imagine they get a lot of people that just play for a season or two because they want a hobby or a change of pace, kind of like the people that join roller derby, just for fun.

Also, I don’t know about England, but in the US, I don’t think it’s offered in many high schools and I’ve never heard of it in the grade school level (football being extremely common in both), so most american kids don’t grow up with it. If you want to play it you have to seek it out, learn it and train for it. It’s not like saying ‘I used to play baseball in high school, maybe I’ll see if I can find a bar league to join, it’ll be fun and I can probably still play’.

Thinking solely about team sports, when it comes to overall visibility and popularity in the U.S., there’s American football, baseball, and basketball, and then there’s everything else. Hockey is sometimes referred to as the fourth major team sport in the U.S., but its appeal skews regionally (towards the Midwest and Northeast).

Soccer is extremely popular as a sport in which kids compete, but is only recently making bigger inroads as far as professional leagues and fans (and that seems to be driven, in part, by interest in non-U.S. based teams, and by Hispanic fans).

There are also team sports that have strong regional interest (like lacrosse in the Northeast), plus non-team sports like golf, auto racing, and MMA.

On the whole, rugby in the U.S. is lower on the radar screens of sports fans than any of the above. My few friends who play the game (or follow the professional and national teams) really enjoy it, but it’s a curiosity, at best, to other sports fans.

I tossed in hockey and soccer both because they’re far and away more popular than rugby in the states and, not knowing they’re regional, Milwaukee has both a soccer and hockey team. I know neither of them have state loyalty (like, say The Green Bay Packers or The Milwaukee Brewers), but we do still have them (FYI it’s The Admirals and The Waves).

As far as all these teams being ‘far and away’ more popular, I can’t think of a time when rugby was on TV or when I heard newscaster say that such and such a team was going to regionals/state/won the championship. I don’t even know if they play at that level. Hell, my all the local news teams followed the 8th grade girls basketball for about 2 or 3 games before they made it to the state and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any mention of rugby. It’s almost on par with, for the uninterested 3rd party, bar league kickball or volleyball. That is, we all know it’s out there and people play it, but to what extent, how seriously, I/we don’t know.
To most people I think rugby=football, but you get hurt a lot more for some reason. They were shirts with vertical stripes and there’s something about scrum. Also, Ross tried to play on Friends at some point.

But still, it’s not ‘very popular’, people play it, but they play it for fun, it’s not exactly an organized sport. Like I said before, it’s more like Roller Derby.

Yes, although “rugby” refers to two different sports, and some of those places prefer rugby league. And I believe that in the US, “rugby” means union 99% of the time.

Lacrosse is one of those sports that are really popular in some areas, and unknown elsewhere in the US.

Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for several years back in the day, I already knew that Cal was pretty much the class of the sport as far as U.S. colleges. But it wasn’t until I checked Wikipedia that I discovered just how dominant the Bears have been. It’s just ridiculous.

My view was that rugby was for college students that couldn’t handle not being good enough to compete in traditional collegiate sports.

I played Rugby in college 30 years ago and we fielded enough players to often have A, B, and C teams when travelling to other colleges to play them. As was mentioned it was just a club sport. I think we got a small grant from the college for some costs but it was mostly self funded. The football players would frequently play on the rugby team during the offseason to stay in shape. (I remember one drill where I had to run up and down the field while carrying one of the Linebackers from the football team piggyback).

Where I live now there’s a kids league with a flag version for the younger kids who then graduate into full tackle around 10 years old. I looked into it because my son was interested but it interfered too much with baseball practice and he wasn’t willing to cut back on baseball.

NBCSN in the US televises one or two Aviva Premiership Rugby games each week. I’ve been having fun watching those.

So far as I know, there is no professional rugby league in the States, or if it is they have a lower profile than horseshoe pitching. Never had any intramural rugby games when I was in the Coast Guard, although one guy in my unit was from Sydney, Australia and certainly knew about it. The Australian/ New Zealand/South Africa Super XV league (or whatever they call themselves nowadays, I think it’s Super Rugby) is on the ESPN3 website streaming. I don’t think they ever put it on any of their five cable channels. Fox sports, smaller in reach, has one or two Australian NRL games live so they are on 2 AM Eastern on Saturday. I think the NBC sports channel, similar in size to fox, has some Aviva matches.
Cool shirt won by rugby enthusiasts in the early 1970s: “It takes leather balls to play rugby”.

All the people I know that played it in college only started playing in college and it was a social activity and drinking club more than it was a competitive sport.

To give you an idea of how bad it is, my otherwise Division II college lost 2x in a row v a Divison I school in a nationally televised rugby tournament final but our participation was not even mentioned locally in the papers here.

I love and respect rugby but in the United States, it’s seen as an oddball sport and will will never be mainstream here.

Lacrosse has more of a footprint than rugby football does.

England should be happy that Association Football is at least managing to take a spot as a quasi-major league here in America. :smiley:

It’s pretty popular as a club sport in colleges. I knew a few men and women rugby players at my school and attended a couple games. The crowd was usually bigger than I’d have expected for a club sport. As far as I know, everyone on the rugby team either played football or soccer in high school and never took up rugby until they joined the club team.

And for after college, there are leagues, but they’re not all that popular as far as I can tell. I’ve only ever personally known one person that played in a local rugby league. So my impression is it’s mostly a college club sport in the US.