Professional Rugby in the United States looks to be on a sure footing as the second season of Major League Rugby is set to get under way.
Rugby in the United States is booming. Following a successful first season, Major League Rugby is on good ground to succeed past previous failures. Two new teams are featured in this year’s competition: Rugby United New York and the Toronto Arrows.
Considering that the failure of PRO rugby is still so fresh in American minds, this news is very positive. And positivity is an element that every professional sports competition must hold on to tightly.
More MLR matches in 2019
The 2019 season has expanded both in quantity, and in scheduled fixtures. Each team playing both home and away matches against every team in the conference. This provides each team 16 matches over 2019 to ‘prove their mettle’ and really gel as a team.
At the end of last season defenses were beginning to gel better as the teams had more game experience together. With more matches from January to June, those defenses will continue to improve across all nine franchises.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) November 7, 2018
From a business point of view, this is also a positive. With each team being able to draw more revenue from more home matches, marketing and promotion will bring rewards to those who can present a product sports fans can easily digest. It also makes season tickets more valuable because fans will be getting more for their hard earned money.
Potential scheduling conflict for USA Rugby
For Last Word on Rugby, the one negative of the 2019 season schedule is timing. Round one is only one week before the all-important America’s Rugby Championship gets underway. This will potentially leave many teams without their top USA Rugby stars for the first seven weeks of the Major League Rugby (MLR) season.
Not only for season ticket holders but for the viewing public and broadcast partners, who wish to see the elite players displayed all season, there are conflicting objectives. Yet for the good of pro-Rugby in the US, one wonders if the desires of Gary Gold and the US Eagles sit a little higher than MLR rugby.
For fans of the sport, and it’s wider goals – the Eagles must fly high, to deserve the early interruption to the 2019 calendar.
It is fortunate that the Pacific Nations Cup will begin in late July, thus allowing teams to complete their season intact. It is likely that the Glendale, San Diego Legion, and newcomers Rugby United New York will be hit hardest by the international tournament. How those squads adapt, will be a testament to their depth and forward planning.
Rugby Insight: New Players to Watch
With the addition of two more teams, there are many new faces to MLR for the upcoming season. Each team has added serious firepower for this season, and the gap may be closing within the competition.
Rugby insight and awareness is an ingredient that every fan needs. Research of teams, players and new prospects will add enjoyment to established and new MLR fans – and Last Word on Rugby wish to provide this insight, across the season.
He may not be new to the competition, but the addition of Cam Dolan from San Diego Legion is huge for NOLA. Cam Dolan has been a mainstay in a USA Eagles jersey making 39 appearances for the Eagles.
Welcome to the fam @Cam_Dolan.
Digidust Sport just got a little bit faster, stronger and talented thanks to you.
Make yourself at home 🙏🏻❤ pic.twitter.com/xE8ATOp105
— Digidust Sport (@DigidustSport) November 20, 2018
His leadership will be an amazing addition to the forwards in New Orleans.
San Diego Legion
San Diego was heavily poached during the offseason, but have made some nice signings as well. The most exciting one is Psalm Wooching.
Wooching made headlines by choosing to forgo the NFL draft to return to his original love, rugby. Psalm earned his first caps with the Eagles during the 2018 ARC before leaving for Italy. He has returned to the states and is now settled in sunny California for the MLR season.
Rugby United New York
For RUNY, everyone is new. However, one signee to the new team stands above the rest. Ben Foden earned 34 caps for England including starting every match England’s 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign.
Foden is coming from the Northampton Saints club, where he made 250 starts over his 10 UK year career. Now taking his talents ‘across the pond’ which will benefit his side (as he will offer plenty of experience and mentor ability).
Rugby United New York is happy to announce the signing of English rugby star Ben Foden. Ready to get to work? 🔷🔶 🏉
https://t.co/KECS2XRQwK#RUNY #RugbyUnitedNY #UniteTheEmpire #NYC #MLR #MajorLeagueRugby #RFU #USARugby #GrowTheGame pic.twitter.com/RojQyAtBri
— Rugby United New York (@rugbyunitedny) July 26, 2018
The departure of Canadian Captain Ray Barkwell will not be so keenly felt this upcoming season. Seattle has managed to sign Stephan Coetzee to fill the position. Coetzee was the starting hooker for the Guinness Pro14 Southern Kings last season, and will make an excellent addition to the dominant Seawolves pack.
Seattle also poached Ben Cima from San Diego for the upcoming season and we will be looking forward to seeing him in a new kit.
Austin Elite was very busy during the offseason, with new signees including Sebastian Kalm from New Orleans and Peni Tagive.
Peni Tagive made his name in Rugby League in Australia with the NRL. He then went on to play defensive end in American football for Baylor University.
#AustinEliteRugby is pleased to announce the commitment of Ratu Peni Tagive @rt_penitagive. Making appearances on both the #WorldRugby and the US collegiate football stage, Tagive brings with him a lot of valued experience.
— Austin Elite Rugby (@Austin_E_Rugby) January 3, 2019
Glendale, a perpetually powerful team in US professional rugby, and have just gotten a little bit more powerful. Their acquisition of a great young back row forward Hanco Germishuys was stolen away from Austin.
An amazing signing for one of the top teams in the league, the talent level will increase even further in 2019, so expect the Raptors to have ‘just as much bite’ as they have had in the last few years, with names like Germishuys on the roster.
— Glendale Raptors (@glendaleraptors) December 4, 2018
The above names and many more spread over the nine professional franchises, will all add quality to the second season of Major League Rugby. It should not be as much a sophomore-season but will allow for expansion into new regions and to markets.
The upcoming season will be a very exciting one and is finally the standard of rugby that the United States and Canada truly need. And it begins in just over one weeks time.
Major League Rugby – Round One, January 26-27
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