USA-Italy Rugby: Yes, This Is A Kind Of a Big Deal

During the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the United States Eagles had a decent shot to make it to the first quarterfinals in club history. And the Eagles played well for a half against the Italians before poor tackling did them in during a 27-10 loss.

On Saturday, June 23, the two will meet for the first time since that September 27 contest in New Zealand -- and Houston's impressive new BBVA Compass Stadium will play host.

You should care. Really.

Overall interest in rugby is on the up and up. For example, 133,000 fans attended the 2011 Rugby World Cup from overseas, which was 95,000 more than the organizers expected; new leagues have sprouted in China, Africa, and the States; and, during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the sport will return to the games for the first time since 1924.

Also, some say that the pad-less, full-contact sport is safer than American football, which has been riddled with concussions. According to an Ohio State University study, high-school football and hockey players are getting banged up more than their rugby counterparts.

The game against Italy will round out a three-match summer series for USA Rugby. The previous matches -- a 28-25 defeat to the Canadians in Kingston, Ontario and a 36-20 conquest over the Republic of Georgia in Glendale, Colorado -- played to packed houses.

The match is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, which start at $15, can be picked up from the USA Rugby website.

There's also going to be a free pre-game bash with grub and a beer garden -- just stroll over to the area adjacent to Lucky's Pub, 801 Saint Emanuel Street.

And if you don't know jack poo about the sport, then do your homework, Mister:

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen