It’s said to be the fastest growing sport in the USA and one Nottingham alumnus is paving the way.
The 2015 Rugby Union World Cup takes place in the UK over the next few weeks and Chris Wyles (Politics 2006) is set to captain the USA as they take on Samoa in their opening fixture on Sunday.
Although the 15-man code has traditionally struggled to make any headway in the US there are signs that its popularity is on the rise, especially amongst universities, and sports commentators at this world cup are hailing the Eagles as the game’s “sleeping giants”.
Wyles has played rugby union for club and country at the highest level for more than eight years. His English club side Saracens won the Aviva Premiership league title this year and the American back is relishing the challenge of leading his countrymen after recently winning his 50th USA cap.
Born in Connecticut, the young Wyles moved back to the UK with his English parents, aged 12 and developed his rugby skills at Haileybury College in Hertford.
While at university in Nottingham, he also played for Championship side Nottingham RFC before a brief spell with Northampton Saints.
He returned to the US and was about to pack up playing rugby for good but while at the 2007 world Cup in France, his performances impressed the then Saracens Head Coach Eddie Jones and he joined the club on secondment from USA Rugby.
Since then he has made 177 appearances for Saracens and is one of their most consistent performers.
On the international scene, Wyles made his debut for the US Eagles against England Saxons in the 2007 Churchill Cup and has been a regular in the side ever since, helping his country reach the 2011 World Cup, He was also a member of the victorious USA Eagles side that beat Russia at Allianz Park in November 2013.
The tournament could represent Wyles’ last World Cup and being staged in the UK means his family will able to come and watch.
In pool B of the world cup, the Eagles play Samoa on Sunday 20th September, Scotland on Sunday 27th, South Africa on Wednesday 7th October and Japan on Sunday 11th October. Only then will we know if the sleeping giants have awakened.