Professional rugby finally arrives in America

Eric Villarreal ‘16

On November 9th, PRO Rugby announced the launch of the first professional rugby league in North America.

Basic Layout: The inaugural season will begin April 2016 with six teams taking residence in the major cities of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountains, and California. The season will comprise 10 games from April to July. The league will be a centrally-controlled league, which means that the league will control where players play instead of the franchises having dominion over players. Each team will have a roster of 30 players (23 will be active on gameday).

Teams: PRO Rugby has already announced two California teams, the first being in Sacramento on November 15th and the second residing in San Francisco on November 19th. PRO Rugby opened up applications for coaching positions on November 20th; the San Francisco franchise was the first franchise to announce the hiring of its head coach, on December 3rd.

Players: Players will get paid from $25k to $40k. On November 24th, PRO Rugby put out its call for players, which will include club and college players in the United States; players from abroad who can qualify for US nationality after three years, international pros who are looking for more playing time, or aging international pros looking for a final payday (only 3-5 international players are allowed per team). PRO Rugby announced it will be holding its first player combine on December 19-20. PRO Rugby extended the invitation not only to rugby players but to high performance athletes from other sports. At this first combine, PRO Rugby can offer contracts to players.

Why You Should Care:

  1. First off, this will be the first legitimate startup pro rugby league in North America. There have been prior attempts to launch a league, but the US governing body, USA Rugby Union, did not officially sanction any of the startups. PRO Rugby is sanctioned by USA Rugby and World Rugby, giving the new league the support it needs to succeed.
  2. Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in America with now over a million participants. One main reason for this increase is that caution over head injuries in the past couple of years has decreased participation in youth football. A common misconception is that rugby is more dangerous than football. Quite to the contrary, football is more dangerous because the helmet inclines players to use their heads, increasing head-to-head contact,  which leads to more concussions. In rugby, coaches teach players to use their shoulders and to tackle their opponents at the waist area to avoid a penalty from tackling a player higher than the shoulders. This tackling technique makes rugby safer to play, as over a million people have discovered.
  3. It’s the next big thing in America. The rugby world believes that the US is the sleeping giant of rugby. We produce so many world-class athletes that if we could get a few to learn how to play the sport then we’d develop into a dominant country on the world scale. Our market potential is the biggest in the whole world, and we could bring the sport to unforeseen levels. PRO Rugby is just the start.