ESPNU Picks Up Rugby Broadcasts

Via an e-mail …

ESPNU REACHES MULTI-YEAR AGREEMENT WITH USA RUGBY
11 International Rugby Matches Through August; Barclays Churchill Cup and World Cup Qualifiers Featured

ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, has reached a multi-year agreement with USA Rugby for coverage of international rugby matches through 2008. Coverage begins June 3 with the nine-game 2006 Barclays Churchill Cup, an annual gathering of rugby-playing nations that in ’06 will include Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand Maori, Scotland and the United States, and for the first time in the four year history of the Cup will feature a U.S. pool. The network will also televise two Rugby World Cup qualifying matches, showcasing the USA Rugby Men’s National Team against both Barbados (July 1) and Canada (August 12). This will mark the first time coverage of each competition is televised domestically.

This year, USA Rugby will host the United States pool (Ireland, New Zealand Maori, USA) of the Barclays Churchill Cup – June 3, 7 and 10 at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University. Simultaneously, Toronto will host the Canadian pool involving Canada, England and Scotland, with the finals slated for June 17 in Edmonton, Alberta. Now in its fourth year, the Churchill Cup, named in honor of the late English Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, was born of the need to develop and promote the sport of rugby in North America.

“We are both honored and thrilled to join USA Rugby in presenting every match from the 2006 Barclays Churchill Cup, as well as showcasing the sport and the USA Men’s National Team to a national audience via ESPNU,” said Burke Magnus, vice president and general manager ESPNU. “Our network’s unprecedented coverage will allow many sports fans to watch this popular international competition for the first time, a tremendous addition to our schedule.”

“USA Rugby is excited to team up with ESPNU,” said Doug Arnot, chief executive officer, USA Rugby. “Our national team’s appeal to the college market makes ESPNU a natural fit. We see this as a great collaboration for rugby in America.”

ESPNU USA Rugby Telecast Schedule (All times eastern)
Date Time (ET) LIVE/TD
2006 Barclays Churchill Cup Match
Sun., Jun., 4
8:30 a.m. TD
*England vs. Scotland (Toronto, Ontario)

10:15 a.m. TD
*USA vs. Ireland (Santa Clara, Calif.)

Wed., Jun. 7
10:30 p.m. LIVE
USA vs. New Zealand Maori (Santa Clara, Calif.)

Thurs., Jun. 8
12:30 a.m. TD
*Canada vs. Scotland (Toronto, Ontario)

Sun., Jun. 11
9:30 a.m. TD
*England vs. Canada (Toronto, Ontario)

11:15 a.m. TD
*New Zealand Moira vs. Ireland (Santa Clara, Calif.)

Sat., Jun. 17
2 p.m. LIVE
Fifth Place Match (Edmonton, Alberta)

4:30 p.m. LIVE
Championship Match (Edmonton, Alberta)

6:30 p.m. LIVE
Third Place Match (Edmonton, Alberta)

Rugby World Cup Qualifiers
Sat., Jul. 1
4 p.m. LIVE
Barbados at USA (Santa Clara, Calif.)

Sat., Aug. 12
12:30 p.m. LIVE
USA at Canada (Newfoundland)

* Tape-delayed (TD)

ESPNU
ESPNU was launched in March 2005. The ESPNU schedule featured 477 live events (regular-season and championships) in the network’s first year. ESPNU also offers comprehensive studio programming, such as replays of ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Regional Television games, plus specials and more. In addition, the network has a wide-ranging, long-term agreement with the NCAA calling for extensive coverage of numerous NCAA Championships, including sports from each of the three collegiate seasons.

ESPNU.com, a new online college sports hub that will join the ESPN.com family in the fall, will be the online companion to the one-year-old ESPNU college sports television network, functioning as an online home for college sports multi-media content. ESPN.com and ESPNU will also work with XOS Technologies, to expand online content across ESPN.com, ESPNU.com and the XOS network of college athletics websites – allowing the parties to share online news, information and features, video and audio assets.

ESPNU has secured distribution agreements with DIRECTV (Channel 609), Echostar’s DISH Network (Channel 148), Adelphia, Insight Communications, Mediacom, Verizon, several smaller affiliates and is close to distribution agreements with others. The 24-hour television network is the key component of the multi-media ESPNU initiative that will deliver college sports content across ESPN’s family of services, such as ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, Mobile ESPN, ESPN Radio, ESPN Interactive, ESPN360, merchandising and more.

About USA Rugby
USA RUGBY, founded in 1975, is the national governing body for rugby and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Rugby Board (IRB). The organization is responsible for the development of boys, girls, high school, collegiate and club programs and ultimately, the Eagles, the national teams representing the United States in international competition.

I think this is good news. Any coverage from an ESPN entity is good coverage.

However, others don’t agree. Check out Kurt Oeler’s post on it here and be sure to read the comments. They’re skewering the national office again and its leadership.

I do happen to agree a bit with the comments from Goeagles and Eaglesfan. I think this is a good move. It’s a new ESPN channel,yes, but you can guarantee that ESPN will be pushing this hard in the next few years and hopefully, rugby can stay a part of it. CSTV and FOX Sports, at least here in the US, will never catch up to the “worldwide leader in sports”.

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