The Huns Rugby Football Club of Austin, TX have made a lot of noise with their ambitions over the past few months, first by announcing their plans to go professional at the beginning of March and following up with news of their partnerships with French club Racing 92 and long time USA Eagles captain Todd Clever. Now it looks like we know the next piece of the puzzle: the competition in which they will be playing. A story from the Austin American-Statesman revealed that the Huns are taking part in forming a new regional professional rugby competition. The name of this league is not yet known, but the club is one of a few followers of a currently blank Twitter account called Major League Rugby. It’s likely we won’t find out the name and other information about the league until after their May 8 meeting.
Based on the locales listed in the article, this league could be an enhanced version of the current Red River Division 1 league. The only other team mentioned by name in the article is the crosstown Austin Blacks, who have not announced any plans to become a professional club but have a strong team that finished runners-up in last year’s national Division 1 tournament and recently competed in the inter-regional Gold Cup. The mention of the Dallas area could be alluding to any or all of the city’s three D1 clubs, including Griffins Rugby, a club from Allen, TX that has made strides towards turning professional, and the Dallas Reds, another top club from the region that has competed in the Division 1 playoffs and the Gold Cup. The article also lists New Orleans and Houston, two cities whose most prominent clubs are in the same Division 1 league as the other teams mentioned, and Oklahoma City, whose top club competes in the second division.
The other piece of information that is of interest is the Huns’ reported payroll of $300-500K for a roster of 32 players – meaning the average salary will fall somewhere between $9,375 and $15,625. It’s clearly a step up from amateur status and even ahead of what the Griffins are currently doing, but that range is not quite competitive with PRO Rugby. That league is paying most of their players at tiers of $20,000 and $35,000, as well as a few international players making a bit more than that and local players on the other end of the spectrum playing for match fees. What the Huns plan on paying should be enough to attract local talent and keep those players from leaving for lower tier PRO contracts, but outside of that you can expect that PRO will still have their pick of players.