By Mark Lamport-Stokes
(Reuters) - Rugby has become one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, yet the showpiece World Cup currently being staged in England and Wales has barely registered a blip in the U.S. media.
A sprinkling of articles appeared in a few U.S. newspapers on the eve of the Rugby World Cup but coverage since then has varied between the sporadic and non-existent.
After the United States lost their opening match to Samoa on Sunday, the highly respected Los Angeles Times had this to say: "The U.S. lost to Samoa, 25-16, in a Rugby World Cup pool-play opener at Brighton, England."
And that was it, just one line of copy in the 'briefs' buried low down on page nine of the sports section issued on Monday.
However, rugby fans in the U.S. are not being left totally out of the picture with the Universal Sports Network and NBC Sports televising live nine of the 48 matches being played at the World Cup, including all four of their team's pool games.
The American Eagles are in Pool B -- along with South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and Japan. They will next be in action when they take on Scotland at Elland Road in Leeds on Sunday.
Good performances by the Eagles will certainly help the advance of rugby in the United States where, according to a recent study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, it is already the fastest growing team sport.
American fans were hardly gung-ho about their nation's chances heading into this World Cup given that the U.S. had recorded just three victories in seven previous editions, two of them coming against Japan.
Hardly surprisingly, the Americans have targeted another win against Japan -- they clash in Gloucester on Oct. 11 -- to avoid bringing up the rear in Pool B.
Earlier this week, the New York Daily News posed this question in a headline: "Is team USA a 'sleeping giant' in the Rugby World Cup?"
In the article that followed, further queries were raised: 'Will the Eagles finally make an impact on the world stage? Can one nation possibly excel at more than one oval-ball sport at once?'
Them came the answer: 'Don't put more money on it than you can afford to lose, sports fans, because lose you will.'
Unquestionably the Eagles have some handy players and a win against giant-killers Japan, who stunned South Africa in their World Cup opener, or even Scotland cannot be discounted over the coming days.
Saracen's Chris Wyles, the United States' most capped fullback, adds plenty of experience to the U.S. team while Samu Manoa, who can play at number eight or lock, is considered among Europe's finest forwards and is now signed to Toulon in France.
"If this is the year USA will make its mark on the Rugby World Cup, it will require some once-in-a-lifetime play by the Eagles and possibly also some serious blunders by their opponents," reported the New York Daily News.
"But hey, it could happen."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Justin Palmer)