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The Worldwide Leader in Sports...Except Rugby

Fans of rugby here in the U.S. got another kick in the shins from ESPN Saturday–just as they did from its corporate sibling ABC back in February. Back then, the emails went out among the game’s 65,000 registered players here in the U.S. to tune in to ABC to watch a sevens tournament out of Los Angeles (sevens is the fast-moving 7-per-side version of rugby). Alas, an NBA game went long, and the 5 p.m. rugby program kicked off at 5:27, and an hour-long program was downsized to 33 minutes.

Saturday was the World Cup qualifier match between the U.S. and Canada, starting at 4 p.m. on ESPN Alas, toward the end of the first half, announcer Dave Sitton said the match–a 6-6 nailbiter at the time–would shift to ESPN2 at 5 due to breaking news.

Which was fine, except for those who were recording the match on their DVR because it had rained for like 20 straight days where they live, and the day was 80 degrees and beautiful and ideal for just about anything except sitting at home watching TV.

So I had the first half of U.S.-Canada on the DVR, then an hour of coverage of former NFL QB Steve McNair’s death. That hour featured call-in commentary from a few of McNair’s former teammates, a Nashville police department spokesperson providing essentially no information other than confirming that McNair had indeed been killed, and some highlights of his career.

I don’t argue that a murdered former NFL All-Pro trumps a Rugby World Cup qualifier involving the U.S. But it was still a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the game–particularly those who’d DVR’d the match.

And for what it’s worth, the U.S. won 12-6 and are a step closer to the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.

Hopefully ESPN, which owns the rugby Website, does better with English soccer.