Throwback Thursday: USA prepares for WRWC

Ireland will host the eighth Women's Rugby World Cup this August, 26 years since the USA Women's Eagles won the first world championship in 1991. Each Thursday leading up to the tournament, USA Rugby will be taking a look at the history of the WRWC and the Eagles' performances through the years. This month, the focus is on the inaugural WRWC in Wales.


Jan. 5 TBT


Prior to 1995, rugby union around the world was an amateur sport. This was especially true for the women's game, which largely took a back seat to the men in terms of governing support. France and the Netherlands competed in the first international women's rugby match in 1982 and the second a year later before the likes of Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Italy began traveling for tests in the years to follow.

The United States, whose women's game had flourished, comparatively, for more than a decade, went north to British Columbia in 1987 for its first international friendly against border rival Canada. The match was the first such "test" to be held outside of Europe and the U.K. The CanAm became an annual event through 1989 - and an annual victory for the Eagles - until the U.S. sent a team to New Zealand for RugbyFest in 1990.


USAvCAN '88 program


RugbyFest was the first tournament to feature national teams from multiple continents, with the Netherlands and the Soviet Union making the jaunt south of the equator to participate. The U.S. acclimated itself to the tournament host country with a couple of warm-up games against local opposition - both victories - and opened the round-robin pool play with a shutout of the Dutch. Playing five games in five days with the warm-ups included, the U.S. lost a six-point match to New Zealand before finishing off the trip with a shutout of the Soviet Union. Seven Eagles were named to a World XV side that took on New Zealand to close the tournament, as well.


Read more on USA at RugbyFest 1990 from In Support, courtesy of C. J. Vosk


Despite the positive results, the women's national team was not financially compensated for the players' time, nor was the cost of housing and travel subsidized. In the face of the adversity, the women continued to train and prepare for what was to be the first Women's Rugby World Cup. The Americans' performances made waves north to the established rugby nations, as did the news the "locks from hell" were on their way to Wales.


Jan. 19 TBT