Expected Major League Rugby Teams for Next Year
Part Two of our feature on the MLR, in this article we will take a look at the teams that are expected to be a part of the debut season next year. In case you missed Part One, you can read it here.
The Glendale Raptors have a long and storied history in the United States. In 2016 and 2017 they won the Pacific Rugby Premiership title. Both years were won against the San Francisco Golden Gate. This year in the Major Rugby Championship, they have won every match, including an away match against the Austin Huns this past weekend. The Raptors feature many current Eagles in their squad currently. Shaun Davies, Will Magie, Zach Fenoglio, and Chad London have all had multiple caps for the Eagles. The infusion that the Raptors have of Test cap talent have made them near invincible this season. It will be exciting to see where the team goes from here in this new league.
The Austin Huns have been around for many years having been founded in 1972. Austin Huns General Manager Thierry Daupin has an amazing vision for his team going into the future. Austin has made great strides in growing their team and their operational budget. The Huns have also performed very well this year, defeating OMBAC to open their spring season. The only team that has been able to beat the Huns this season has been Glendale. The Huns may be light on Eagles talent, but one star has shown very bright for them. Hanco Germishuys made it on the scene last year with the Denver Stampede. This season finds him in Texas with the Huns and a series of caps in the ARC this winter.
The Griffins were originally slated to be involved in this years Major Rugby Championship, but had to remove themselves for the year. It was later announced that the Griffins would be involved in Major League Rugby next year as one of three Texas teams in the competition. The Griffins much like the Huns were working towards Professionalism with their team. They unfortunately ran into a few roadblocks along the way the resulted in them removing themselves from all competition this year. It will be interesting to see if the Griffins are able to work out the kinks and continue on, or if their transitional woes continue.
Seattle RFC has been around since 1966. In 2006 after a long storied rivalry with Old Puget Sound Beach Rugby the teams combined resources to create one club. In 2014 Seattle-OPSB was offered an opportunity to join the Global Saracens network and were re-dubbed the Seattle Saracens. The Saracens currently play in the British Columbia Premiere League. One recent signee with the Saracens caused quite a stir when he signed. Psalm Wooching was an outside linebacker for the Washington Huskies and was very highly touted ahead of this years NFL draft. He announced he would be forgoing the draft to pursue a rugby career. He has since turned down multiple offers by teams and is adamant about his future.
Kansas City Blues
The first of the smaller clubs on the list, The Kansas City blues are one of the older teams on the list. Formed in 1966, The Blues have been to two National Club Championship final fours. Their team over the years have featured seven capped Eagles, as well as national players from four other countries. It will be exciting to see how the Blues work to begin their professional side and sign new players.
New Orleans Rugby
New Orleans Rugby is the oldest club in Louisiana. A participant in this year’s Major Rugby Championship, they came out without a win. NOLA is currently a member of the Deep South Rugby conference and their DII side won the national championship in 2012. They are a strong club with a great history.
Rugby Utah is a very new team having their first season this past season. They were another team that was featured in the the Major Rugby Championship. Even during their first season they have made a lot of progress. They were dominated by the Huns and Raptors, but have improved a lot over the season. The rugby community is very strong in Utah and they have been able to set up a Select XV that looks that they will be able to compete well in the future.
The Houston Strikers are currently the only brand new team that will debut next year in the MLR. The news and vision of what the team has planned.
From their stadium plan:
— Visit Houston Texas (@VisitHouston) March 27, 2017
To their decision to hire former Seattle Saracens and Eagles assistant coach, Justin Fitzpatrick as their new head coach. They have also signed Eagle Matthew Trouville as a player/coach. Former Ulster player Sam Windsor will also have a new home in Houston next year. The Strikers are driving hard to put together a strong team to start the MLR season next year.
‘Unnamed’ Minneapolis team
In the press announcement made by Major League Rugby, they named Minneapolis as a city that will be featured in the league next year. Whether that will be a new or existing club is unknown at this point.
Many Things Are Still Up in the Air
It is still uncertain on what the future design of the MLR will be. A few details have been released, but many things are still unknown.
One thing is sure–it will be exciting to see what the future holds for the organization. Their design and commitment to developing youth rugby is a step in the right direction, from where the US Rugby professional system had been doing in the past (with their limited resources).
LWOR wish all teams the very best in this critical stage of development. Watch this space, as we follow the implementation of a schedule, fixtures and towards the kick-off of the first Major League Rugby championship.