Rugby? What's that?

Rugby Comment: John Inverdale, the U.K. Telegraph

THE scene: a dozen American journalists gathered in the media lunch area (alcohol-free, honest) at the Brookline Golf Club, Boston. The question: how many of you know the Rugby World Cup starts next week? The response: complete indifference and a few cries of "the what?"

America are in it, I volunteered. They play Ireland in Dublin a week today. They played England at Twickenham three weeks ago.

They beat Canada in the summer, and Canada ran Wales really close a month ago, and Wales . . . their eyes glazed over as they searched the room for an escape route from this messianic limey talking about a game that's "like our football but without the protection, right?"

And then he came up to me. From San Francisco, a man who spoke in such hushed tones I thought he was about to offer me some highly suspicious photos of a naked Tiger Woods. "I know all about the World Cup," he whispered. "Jonah Lomu - he's kinda neat."

Now whether big Jonah has ever been described in such understated terms before is debatable but a kindred spirit had been found, and when he began describing a trip to Parc des Princes as one of the most memorable days of his sporting life, there was no option but to adjourn for a pretzel and a Diet Coke to debate whether Neil Jenkins would make it as a kicker in pro-football.

This guy is the proverbial vegetarian in a Texas ranch. No one to talk to about one of his passions. There were 48 pages of sport in the Boston Herald yesterday. You want to know about the SLG, the LOB and the ERA (don't ask) of every baseball team in America and you'll find it there somewhere.

You want to check where the Immaculate Heart High School are in the NSCAA women's soccer league - you got it. What about the splendidly named 'Blooming Football Club' in the Bolivian First Division? You got that too. (Incidentally, they are third, just behind a club called Strongest FC) but no rugby. Not nowhere. USA Today's sports section couldn't muster a single line, a week before the last great global sporting event of the millennium.

All of which proves nothing. Except that the US Eagles are deserving of all our support over the next few weeks. Faced with such overwhelming indifference at home, they've done supremely well even to be here.

Just imagine England playing the Boston Red Sox at baseball and you get some idea of what they're up against.