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Saturday, July 9, 2016

RUGBY? YES RUGBY.

RUGBY?  YES RUGBY is the title of the 4 July 2016 issue of TIME magazine.  Stay!  Don't leave this posting.  In a few minutes you will thank me for introducing you to what could well become a highlight TV viewing experience for the Rio Olympics next month.  Opening ceremonies occur the evening of Friday, August 5.  

Incidentally, if you're interested in "The Gene Machine," my blog of 6 July 2016 covers:


But back to rugby, the Olympics will for the first time in 92 years to include rugby.  However, it will be a faster version, with only 7 players, not 15.  The Japan Summer Olympics will also feature this sport.

By the way, in 1924, the USA beat France 17-3 to win the Gold Medal for Rugby 15s.  Huh, rugby, USA?  Turns out that football suffered an injury crisis in 1905 and colleges in California turned to rugby.  Anyway, only 3 teams competed in this Paris Olympics.

I recall playing some rugby, both in college and while I served in the U.S. Senate as a staff member.  Why?  Mostly because I loved those long sleeve shirts.  

It was less than a year ago on Day 5 (I was in Japan) of my Grand Around the World Adventure that I reported on the World Cup of Rugby (the traditional one, with 15 on each side) on Japan beating South Africa in the biggest upset of the sport ever.

Today, South Africa is ranked #15, Japan #12 and the USA #17...but in 15 player rugby.  However, in Rugby 7, the USA is #6, while the top three are Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand.  There will be 12 teams competing for gold at Rio.  Unfortunately, the U.S. is in the same pool as Fiji.

However, here is why the USA actually has a shot at a medal, and his name is Carlin Isles, the fastest player ever in rugby history.  He had a tough childhood, where his mother was sent to prison, so he and his twin sister ate dog food and were subsequently adopted by Starlett and Charles Isles in a Carlin had the times to make the American Olympic track team for the London Olympics, and was on the NFL Detroit Lions practice team, but then discovered Rugby 7s.  In Rugby 15s, speed is not a particularly important asset, for there are too many players blocking your path.  In Rugby 7s speed can make that crucial difference.  Note the size of the rugby ball.

The American team as not been spectacular as of late, but they are well-positioned in 6th place, for Isles was hurt this Spring, and Nate Exner (left) of the New England Patriots recently joined the team.

Okay, you don't know anything about this sport, so here is a quick explanation for dummies:
  • The field is the same as for Rugby 15.
  • But 7s is to Scotland as 15s for England.
  • There are 7 players/team.
  • Ball can only be passed laterally or backward, or kicked forward.
  • The game is quick:  two halves of 7 minutes with a 1 minute break.  Yes, each game only lasts 15 minutes.  However final halves are 10 minutes long.  15s have a total play time of 80 minutes.
  • 5 points for a touchdown, 2 for a conversion kick, and 3 for a penalty or drop kick.
  • The scrum occurs after a penalty.
  • Only 5 reserves/game, with 3 changes/game.
I've never even once seen this game on TV, so here is a site if you're really interested in the rules.

I should finally add that there is also the women's game of 7s, with the USA ranked at #6 and Australia #1.  Thus the women's chances are equal to the men's.  The first day of Rio Rugby 7s is August 6, and play goes on until August 11.

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Tropical Storm Celia is at 60 MPH and still heading for Hawaii, but will become a Category 2 before weakening:


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