USA Rugby
Castaignede: American rugby needs a Jonah Lomu
Tom Hamilton at the IRB World Rugby Conference
November 17, 2014
Jonah Lomu was one of rugby's first superstars in the professional era © PA Photos

Rugby in the USA needs to find its own equivalent of Jonah Lomu to kick it on to the next level, according to France legend Thomas Castaignede.

In the first session of the 2014 IRB Conference, ex-All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick, former Pumas skipper Agustin Pichot and Castaignede fielded questions on the growth of rugby and areas of concern and the subject of growth in America also appeared on the agenda.

On November 1, the USA Eagles hosted the All Blacks in Chicago at a sold-out Soldier Field in undoubtedly the biggest game in American rugby history. The key now is what happens next and for Castaignede, the States need to experience a Lomu moment where an individual transcends the sport and increases the exposure.

"We need big teams going to America but we also need to have big players coming out of America," Castaignede said. "In America there is the potential to have two or three guys like Jonah Lomu was for New Zealand. It made the rugby world known. It needs two or three guys who can really create imitation behind them. For America they need to focus on who will be the next heroes."

For Pichot, occasions such as the game in Chicago make commercial success but are not a blueprint for instantly becoming a rugby superpower overnight.

"I actually think the America game was more about the All Blacks' brand," Pichot said. "If you ask me about the roots and how to make a better team in the World Cup, it's not the way.

"At Argentina, we have been working for the last seven years to try and get into the Rugby Championship. We have grassroots rugby, then the local Championship then we go for the [Super Rugby] franchise in 2016.

"We played the All Blacks in Buenos Aires and that reaches some depth but if you don't have the whole pathway towards the World Cup, you will never have a competitive team in the World Cup. It's not magic, it won't happen just by taking the All Blacks to Mexico or to Brazil. You need a pathway from grassroots to the professional game. "

Fitzpatrick saw the positives of the match in Chicago but emphasised the need for increased investment in American rugby. He said: "To grow the game, we need to take the game to the other parts of the world and that's to grow the game in terms of participants in the US now but also it's important to grow revenue. It's all very well to have aspirations but you also need revenue."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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