If you are an American, you may have heard of rugby, but you’ve probably never seen it. If you were bored enough two weeks ago, however, you may have stumbled across the Las Vegas Rugby Sevens Tournament on NBC while flipping through the channels. With seven-man teams playing on a full size rugby pitch, rugby sevens is a fast-paced, exciting variation of American football’s unheralded predecessor. Featuring seven-minute halves and a lot of scoring, it is predicted by many analysts to be the next big thing in the sports world and will be featured in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Played in just three days, the Las Vegas Rugby Sevens Tournament featured 45 matches played by 16 nations.
The tournament represents the midway point in a series known as the IRB Sevens World Series. Comprised of nine tournaments played over eight months, the series is the ultimate annual quest for rugby sevens players as they strive to bring glory to their countries. When they don their jerseys and take the pitch, these men represent their countries as they compete at the highest stage of the game.
Despite being recognized as the best in the game, these athletes are different than those selected to represent their countries in sports such as soccer and basketball. Unlike other international sports stars, most rugby sevens players are not professional athletes. They are roofers, farmers and students. They are “normal guys” that play rugby on the weekends. While LeBron and Kobe return to playing in the NBA after competing in international tournaments, these sevens players return to their jobs and schools, anxiously awaiting the next chance to compete.
It’s no different for rising star Carlin Isles.
A high school football and track star from Ohio, Isles found his athletic career coming to an early end despite ranking as the 36th fastest sprinter in the United States.
Having realized that qualifying for the 2016 Olympics as a sprinter was a long shot, Isles started looking for other ways to represent his country in Rio de Janeiro. With the encouragement of Miles Craigwell, a former Miami Dolphins safety that decided to pick up rugby after being relegated to the practice squad, Isles decided to take up rugby.
He began playing with the local Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club in 2012. It only took a few months for the rugby world to notice Isles, and he was selected for the United States international squad that October. He made his international debut against the top-ranked New Zealand, scoring within his first minute on the field. His success continued in a big way in Las Vegas.
In a must-win match against Spain, Isles played a vital role in sending the United States Eagles on to the next round of the tournament when he scored twice before two minutes had expired.
Isles represents perfectly the appeal of the world’s fastest growing sport. With incredible speed and patriotic determination, he has a chance to score every time he gets the ball, and fans can almost feel the anticipation when he gets loose. As the Olympic debut of rugby sevens approaches, don’t miss the chance to witness the rise of the United States’ first modern rugby star.