If you need any further proof that the 2011 Rugby World Cup lacks any pull in the USA, just examine the television coverage.
Universal Sports, the barely-known over-the-air digital channel that accompanies most NBC broadcast signals, published this grid showing what games will be shown where. Clearly, the boys at Universal want people to pay up for this. Only nine matches will be shown on free TV, and four of the six pool stage matches involve the USA team — which makes sense, given that this is the USA, but for all its recent improvements, that squad is expected to suffer at least three savage beatings in its four matches.
If you want to watch the entire competition online, Universal Sports is charging $149 for the full package, which covers all the games not shown on free TV. So you’ll still need to grab a good Mohu antenna for certain matches — or pay extra to watch them online.
If you’ve got a dish from either DirecTV and Dish Network, you can also watch World Cup matches that way — if you’ve got a lot of cash to burn. Each pay-per-view match is $24.99, and that’s for crappy 480p viewing. If you want to watch in 720p, it’s $34.99 per match, and there’s no indication that either DirecTV or Dish is offering a complete package deal for the entire competition. (If they are, they’re doing a lousy job of advertising it.)
Clearly, Universal Sports is looking to milk hardcore rugby union fans and expats for all they’re worth, rather than putting the game in front of people and showing everyone what top-level international rugby is all about. Perhaps if the NFL lockout were still going on, things would be different, but American pro football kicks off Thursday, and most sports fans in these parts will be far more concerned with Green Bay v. New Orleans than with Tonga v. New Zealand.
So your best bet for watching the Rugby World Cup might be finding a pub in your city that carries it. Trinity Hall in Dallas has a schedule of games its showing on its web site. So do the Kangaroo and Kiwi in Seattle and Finn McCool’s in New Orleans. If you know of a pub in your area showing Rugby World Cup matches, post it in the comments here. Perhaps we can build a pretty decent list of pubs here by the time this competition kicks off on Friday.