Not only was Steven Branham selected for the USA Rugby Boys High School All-American team which played in the Rugby 4 Nations Cup tournament in Argentina in July, but the incoming Fallbrook High School senior was also one of three Americans to be named to the all-tournament team.
“I feel blessed to be considered the best out of the four very good rugby-playing nations,” Branham said.
Branham is a member of the Southern California Rugby Football Union’s Griffins all-star team, and his participation in various camps and all-star tournaments led to his berth on the Rugby 4 Nations Cup squad. Branham was named to the team in late June and was one of 30 high school boys selected to represent the United States.
“It’s really an honor to get to play for my country,” Branham said. “It’s not something that a lot of people get to do in their lifetime. It’s a unique experience, and I really enjoyed it.”
Branham left Fallbrook on July 9. The team’s first game was a July 16 scrimmage in Cordoba against Cordoba Academy, which defeated the Americans by a 48-8 score.
The Rugby 4 Nations Cup was played in Rio Cuarto. The United States team opened play July 19 with a 35-13 loss to Argentina’s under-18 national team. On July 22, Italy’s U18 national team defeated the Americans by a 20-9 score.
The USA boys faced players from Uruguay’s U18 and U19 squads July 26. The game against Uruguay was a 27-17 win for the Americans. “That was a big deal,” Branham said of a victory in international competition.
Branham, who was the starting hooker in all four games, scored a first-half try against Uruguay.
Branham’s family moved to the Sycamore Ranch area of Fallbrook when he was three. He played baseball, basketball, and soccer before taking up rugby in seventh grade when he was at Sullivan Middle School. The family read an announcement in the Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News about Fallbrook Rugby Club tryouts, and Branham investigated the sport. He spent seventh and eighth grades in the Fallbrook Rugby Club’s middle school program and made the high school club’s varsity as a ninth-grader. The Fallbrook Rugby Club squad plays in the high school league and also participates in under-18 club competition.
High school rugby is a club sport rather than a CIF sport. Branham also plays football for Fallbrook High School as an offensive and defensive lineman; after spending 2011 on the Warriors’ freshman team and 2012 on the junior varsity he joined the Warriors’ varsity as a junior in 2013 and earned Avocado East League offensive first team recognition.
Following the conclusion of the 2012 under-18 club season, Branham and several Fallbrook teammates were invited to try out for the Griffins. Branham was the only Fallbrook player selected to the under-18 Griffins squad. The Griffins won a June 2012 tournament in Denver, and Branham and his parents were informed by a USA Rugby scout about the possibility of an invitation to try out for the All-American team.
Branham received the invitation in September 2012 and participated in a December 2012 tryout. In January 2013, he received a letter inviting him to be part of the under-17 All-Americans. In March 2013, Branham spent spring break of his sophomore year in England playing international matches with the U17 All-Americans. Salty Thompson, who coached the U17 All-Americans, also coached the high school All-Americans in Argentina.