The past few days have had plenty of news related to professional rugby in the United States, stories that I didn’t feel the need to focus an entire article on but that prompted at least a short blurb. Typically, I’ll do this through Twitter, but there was enough going on that I felt it appropriate to put together an article like this.
More on the Huns and Griffins
The two professional teams in Texas put out a statement yesterday, which seemed to be primarily aimed at clarifying their relationships with PRO Rugby and USA Rugby. The release noted that the goal of the clubs and the competition they are starting isn’t to compete with the Professional Rugby Organization but that they are taking a different approach to the professionalization of the game that has been in the works for years. The founding of PRO Rugby is described as having occurred “almost overnight” and is also noted as being a “privately owned and operated” competition, both terms picked to show the contrast between PRO Rugby’s approach and this new league’s goal of professionalizing currently existing clubs.
The release also stated that USA Rugby is aware and supportive of the effort, and that the competition plans to operate within the existing structure. The new league started out as an attempt to promote the current Red River league to the premiership level like the PRP and ARP, but interest from other clubs have moved the goalposts. It’s unclear how many clubs from Texas beyond the Huns and Griffins have the capability to move towards professionalization, so it is smart for the competition to bring other clubs into the fold that are more prepared for such a move.
Pro12 Dreaming of North American Expansion
An interesting article popped up this weekend from UK publication The Rugby Paper about Pro12’s expansion plans. These plans include teams in North America and South Africa. An unnamed chairman said that this expansion plan “will do wonders for the game in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and beyond”, the last one being a name for Italy that I haven’t heard before. For what it’s worth, the competition’s last expansion to Italy hasn’t exactly revolutionized the competition and the two teams have struggled competitively and financially. South Africa has popped up in Pro12 rumors before, specifically inclusion of nine provincial teams in the proposed 24-team Rainbow Cup. There have also been persistent rumors about adding any number of the London “exile” teams.
This rumor, along with the long-running rumor of Super Rugby’s interest in America, shows that other rugby playing nations are interested in trying to bring North America into their sphere of influence and exploiting the commercial potential of the sport on this continent. With the introduction of PRO Rugby and other competitions potentially starting up, it’s difficult to believe that this window of opportunity for other leagues will be open for much longer. And that’s probably for the best, as the financial side of these pipe dreams have never made sense.
Jarryd Hayne Quits NFL to Join Fiji 7s
The biggest rugby story from this past weekend is the news that Jarryd Hayne is ending his short NFL career to join the Fiji national 7s team ahead of the Olympics. The Fijians are already stacked with talent between the group that has played in the Sevens Series all season and the European professionals that are rejoining the squad in time for the Olympics. Adding Hayne was a shock move, especially so shortly before the Olympics, but it shows that Fiji is leaving no stone unturned in their quest for the gold medal. And who better to help you get gold than a 49er?(I had to do that, I’m sorry.)Former Australian anti-doping official Richard Ings stated on Twitter that he didn’t believe Hayne would be eligible as he hasn’t been part of a drug testing pool for six months. Of course, neither have most other rugby sevens players who get their first call-up and neither had Nate Ebner, another NFL player who was on the field for the U.S. sevens team this weekend. The media quickly reported these allegations and Ing kept arguing for why he believed this rule would disqualify the Hayne even after World Rugby confirmed his eligibility. Ings eventually relented and stated that the rules are “odd”. It was interesting to see the perspective of a man who seems to be so wrapped up in preventing cheating in sports that he was arguing on the side bureaucratic rigmarole, but thankfully common sense won out in this scenario.