Rugby World Cup starts Saturday for U.S. team |

Rugby World Cup starts Saturday for U.S. team

USA Eagles World Cup schedule

Sunday vs. Samoa, 5 a.m.

Sept. 27 vs. Scotland, 7:30 a.m.

Oct. 7 vs. South Africa, 9:45 a.m.

Oct. 11 vs. Japan, 1 p.m.

The eighth Rugby World Cup kicks off in London Friday with host England taking on the flying Fijians in what will be the most watched sporting event in the world this year.

It is estimated that 772 million households will tune in while 2.3 million tickets have been sold to this 43-day tournament, which happens every four years.

A total of 120 nations have spent the last four years trying to qualify for just 20 pool places, and the USA Eagles made the cut after victories over Romania, Russia, Uruguay and Canada propelled them to No. 15 in world rankings.

The USA Eagles have been labeled “The Sleeping Giants” of World Rugby by British media after the sport went professional in 1995, and rugby is now the fastest growing sport in the country. There are 115,000 registered rugby players in the U.S. with the largest segment being college rugby with 32,000 players.

With a mix of seasoned professionals and young local talent making up the Eagles’ squad of 31 players, the U.S. can cause problems for Samoa, Scotland, Japan and South Africa, all higher-ranked teams in their pool.

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All eyes will be on local Steamboat Springs Rugby Club member Chris Baumann as he attempts to gain his fifth international cap for the Eagles this weekend when the U.S. plays Samoa Sunday at 5 a.m. Steamboat time.

Baumann, a born and bred Steamboatian, attended Steamboat Springs High School and has played for the local team for a decade. If you’ve ventured down to the local “Cowpie” tournament, you have seen Baumann tearing up Ski Town fields with his naturally aggressive and athletic displays.

There is no doubt that reigning World Champions, the New Zealand All Blacks, go into the tournament as clear favorites. However, recent results have also seen England, Australia, France, Ireland and South Africa all emerge as contenders.

The hope is that the USA Eagles can play to their potential and come from pool play in seconnd place behind 1995 and 2007 champions South Africa to qualify for the quarterfinals. After that, it’s sudden death, and that type of pressure suits the Eagles.

USA Eagles fixtures available at Universal Sports.

Julian Bristow is the coach of the Steamboat Springs Rugby Club and will be following the Rugby World Cup for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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