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New PRO League (5 teams) starting in US in April sanctioned by USA Rugby and World Rugby

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Post by Sin é Sun 28 Feb 2016, 11:08 pm

……   After years of nearly, buts and maybes – where the likes of the NRFL insisted they were close – a national league has finally been set up in the States and will kick into life in April.

Sanctioned by USA Rugby and World Rugby, this is a hugely exciting step for the sport in the US, as interest continues to rise rapidly thanks in part to the national sevens team’s success and the increasing availability of high-level European and Super Rugby on television.

The first season of PRO Rugby will feature five teams – Sacramento, San Francisco, Ohio, Denver and Egan’s San Diego – and will be played out over a 12-week season ending on 31 July.

Denver also have an Irish head coach on board in the shape of Sean O’Leary, who has worked with the University of Notre Dame and USA’s U17 and U19 programmes.

Though many amateur players will feature, this is the beginning of a professional league that could eventually change the shape of the global game if US rugby continues its rapid growth. …..

http://www.the42.ie/ray-egan-pro-rugby-usa-irish-players-2625510-Feb2016/

The full article is worth reading as there is lots of interesting stuff about the model chosen to organise it and they are looking for European playing staff as well.
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Post by eirebilly Mon 29 Feb 2016, 7:03 am

Its a great move and one that was required based on the increase of popularity of Rugby in the States.
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Post by George Carlin Tue 01 Mar 2016, 4:53 am

Thanks for spotting this Sin.

The Canadian semi-pro set up is already pretty good so hopefully they will see he value in joining these up in future.
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Post by Shifty Wed 02 Mar 2016, 8:31 am

It's great news, clearly it's never going to rival the NFL but there is the space in the market and with a national team the Americans should enjoy that side of the appeal of rugby.
The timing is interesting too, the NFL basically runs from September through to February, similar but slightly shorter that the northern hemisphere season. So basically the rugby kicks off in April to June? so it's avoiding a direct competition. Great idea.
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Post by GeordieFalcon Wed 02 Mar 2016, 11:29 am

Its interesting to see the state of Us Rugby at the moment.

During the world cup I had a few drinks with Todd Clever and we spoke at length about his opinions of where they are.

There has been a big push (with camps created etc) for players who didn't make the NFL, but he said he had involved in many of them and these lads whilst physically immense just didn't have the knowledge or skills for the game. He wasn't impressed at all, though he did think some not so specialised roles could bring those guys in.

But he did say there was more exposure and as more kids take it up from younger ages rugby would improve and also as more players take up positions at European clubs.

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Post by Rowanbi Wed 02 Mar 2016, 11:58 am

Exciting news indeed. I think that rugby in the US has already, if somewhat belatedly, begun the transition to professionalism, and this has been evident in their performances in general over the past few years. Most notably, they appear to have turned the tables on arch-rivals Canada - who remain stuck in the amateur Dark Ages. Humble beginnings, perhaps, and the pro league may only serve as a feeder competition for the big European clubs to start with. But new clubs are set to be added, including at least a couple from Canada, and given the enormous wealth and potential for pro sports in North America, this might eventually transform the game on that continent. I wouldn't be surprised if the US has joined the heavyweight ranks by the middle of this century, and they may eventually take it over completely. Meanwhile, this also augurs well for their prospects of staging a World Cup in the not-too-distant future.
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Post by GeordieFalcon Wed 02 Mar 2016, 12:38 pm

Rowanbi wrote: Most notably, they appear to have turned the tables on arch-rivals Canada - who remain stuck in the amateur Dark Ages.

Couldn't agree more.

Remember 1992 when they had Rees, Charron, Lougheed, Evans, Eckhard, and one of my favourite players of all time...BIG NORM HADLEY!

Sadly there's just been nothing in the terms of advancement.

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Post by Cyril Wed 02 Mar 2016, 12:45 pm

Canada arguably out-performed USA at the last World Cup. Both were poor though.

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Post by Rowanbi Wed 02 Mar 2016, 1:33 pm

Cyril wrote:Canada arguably out-performed USA at the last World Cup. Both were poor though.

Perhaps, but as Geordie Falcon has pointed out, Canada were once a great team, particularly toward the end of the amateur era. The Bulletin magazine used to include them (along with Argentina) in their Big 10 rankings every month. But the Canucks certainly got left behind in the pro era, and it looks like the US is starting to nudge ahead of them. 10 years of pro rugby, and that gap is only going to open wider, notwithstanding the likely inclusion of Canadian teams in the future
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Post by Shifty Wed 02 Mar 2016, 3:22 pm

GeordieFalcon wrote:Couldn't agree more.

Remember 1992 when they had Rees, Charron, Lougheed, Evans, Eckhard, and one of my favourite players of all time...BIG NORM HADLEY!

Sadly there's just been nothing in the terms of advancement.

Fixed that for you. You missed out Dan Baugh and Rod Snow also. thumbsup
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Post by Rowanbi Mon 14 Mar 2016, 9:55 pm

Report in the Guardian:

The five teams which will contest the first professional US rugby union competition, PRO Rugby, convene on Monday for their first full days of training.


London Irish and Saracens make flying start in the United States
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According to organisers, the competition that kicks off on 17 April will feature innovations such as limited scrum resets and, because no American loves a tie, sudden-death overtime. There will also be one frontline female referee, the experienced Leah Berard.

On the first game day, San Francisco will travel to Sacramento and Ohio will play at Denver. San Diego will enter in round two.

The season will run into July, each team playing 12 games with no championship play-off. Most games will be on Sundays to allow for local club play on Saturdays, though in June, in an unavoidable glitch familiar to European rugby, two game weekends will clash with international fixtures.

Each team will be identified only by the name of its city or state and an apportioned color scheme. PRO Rugby hopes supporters will help decide team names later on.

Salaries for homegrown players are not high by world standards, although by US standards they are, for the first time, salaries of any kind at all.


http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/mar/14/us-pro-rugby?CMP=share_btn_fb
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Post by Rowanbi Fri 18 Mar 2016, 4:20 pm

Squads announced:

PRO Rugby has revealed their player rosters for the inaugural season – sort of. A list of five squads has been released, with a total of 98 players spread between teams comprised of between 15 and 22 each. Of course that means there are numerous players still to join up, with an assortment of names sifting into the media now from various sources.

Included are 18 Eagles from the Americas Rugby Championship squad and one each from Canada and Chile – Phil Mackenzie and Nikola Bursic respectively. Previously announced foreign internationals Mirco Bergamasco and Pedrie Wannenburg are there, as is former New Zealand sevens star Orene Ai’i. The most notable inclusion, however, comes in the form of star winger Takudzwa Ngwenya, who will leave Pro D2 club Biarritz Olympique to play for San Diego before returning to France in the Top 14 for a new team, strongly suggested to be Brive.

A few notable names both confirmed and rumored are absent, presumably to avoid complications with visa applications. Canadian hooker Ray Barkwill is not on the Sacramento roster, where he will be headed in a couple weeks time, and former Eagles winger Colin Hawley is strangely absent from the San Francisco sheet despite confirming the move himself a month ago.

Ohio are expected to add Lindenwood’s Chilean no8 Sebastián Kalm and former New Zealand test prop Jamie Mackintosh in the coming days, while Ngwenya should be joined by old Biarritz teammate Kurt Morath in San Diego. The Tongan flyhalf has not featured in the professional rugby ranks since participating in the World Cup in October. Also reportedly set to be unveiled is Mils Muliaina, winner of 100 caps for the All Blacks. The 35-year-old fullback is set to be released early from his contract with Zebre to join San Francisco.

Another from Biarritz who could arrive in San Diego is former France sevens star Jean-Baptiste Gobelet, while Italy ‘A’ flanker Filippo Ferrarini has already left Zebre and is poised to sign with one of the new American franchises. Eagles captain Todd Clever could well be on his way to San Diego from Newcastle Falcons, and at least two more Canadians have been signed and will be unveiled shortly. Loosehead prop Hubert Buydens and centre Nick Blevins will take up the offer to head south to join San Diego and San Francisco respectively. While several Canucks had expressed interest, it appears visa complications may restrict their numbers for the first season.

Other Americans said to be joining up are Life West flyhalf Junior Helu and Glendale goal kicker Armandt Peens, the latter reportedly already spotted at practice with the Denver franchise. Several ARC Eagles remain to be named officially, including prop Demecus Beach, flanker Alec Gletzer, and fullback Jake Anderson. Lindenwood teenagers Lorenzo Thomas and Deion Mikesell have Junior All-American and school commitments, while Lemoto Filikitonga, Nick Edwards, and Matt Trouville are injured.

The absence of an East Coast side for season one could leave New York-based ARC trio Nate Brakeley, James Bird, and Luke Hume out in the cold, though Old Blue’s Ryan Matyas will move cross-country to San Diego. World Cup centre Seamus Kelly is another New Yorker thus far unsigned, and the status of flanker Al McFarland seems up in the air. Loose forwards Pat Blair and Aladdin Schirmer seem to be sticking to their Olympic sevens commitments, and there is no sign of big lock Brodie Orth as of yet. James Hilterbrand and James King could yet be added though their status is again unclear.



DENVER

The front row looks complete with four Eagles caps to choose from and Tonga ‘A’ rep Soane Ledger also in the mix. Ben Landry and towering Casey Rock should form an impressive second row, and there are imposing ball carriers in the back row with Zac Pauga, Junior All-American captain Hanco Germishuys, and former Springbok Pedrie Wannenburg all available.

Former national u20 star Will Magie returns from England to challenge veteran Ata Malifa for the chance to partner Niku Kruger at the halfbacks. A big midfield contingent, both in size and number, is a talking point in the backs. ARC duo Mike Garrity and Chad London look front runners, while versatile Kansas City standout Gannon Moore could find himself on the wing, or even in the back row.

NAME POS CLUB COUNTRY CAPS
Baumann, Chris PR Austin Blacks USA 9
Ledger, Soane PR Denver Barbarians Tonga –
Tarr, Ben PR Glendale Raptors USA 2
Turnbull, Jake PR Glendale Raptors Australia –
White, Luke PR Glendale Raptors Australia –
Fenoglio, Zach HO Glendale Raptors USA 17
Rams, Brendan HO Austin Blacks South Africa –
Landry, Ben LO Seattle Saracens USA 4
Rock, Casey LO Glendale Raptors USA –
Germishuys, Hanco FL Glendale Raptors USA 1
Pauga, Zac N8 Glendale Raptors USA –
Wannenburg, Pedrie N8 Oyonnax (FR) South Africa 20
Impson, Bobby SH Denver Barbarians USA –
Kruger, Niku SH Glendale Raptors USA 6
Magie, Will FH Old Albanians (UK) USA –
Malifa, Ata FH Denver Barbarians USA 4
Al-Jiboori, Michael CE Denver Barbarians USA –
Garrity, Mike CE Seattle Saracens USA 2
London, Chad CE Glendale Raptors USA 5
Pauga, Justin CE Glendale Raptors USA –
Peens, Armandt* CE Glendale Raptors South Africa –
Moore, Gannon WI Kansas City Blues USA –
Croy, Dustin FB Glendale Raptors USA –


OHIO

A decent front row should feature Cam Falcon at hooker between Mackintosh and ‘A’ international Angus MacLellan. The second row looks positively monstrous with 6’8″ Nick Civetta returning from Italy and 6’11” Justin Allen in from England. Pierce Dargan has come back from Ireland, and Aaron ‘Spike’ Davis is one of several sevens standouts whose final position seems a bit up in the air. Kalm was also left off the official release but should join the group soon.

The scrumhalf battle looks very tight with two full internationals in Robbie Shaw and Shaun Davies, while Chris Saint is an age grade standout and a former Eagles camp invitee. Ahmad Harajly and Matt Hughston have both played in the back row but look more like centres in this group with Roland Suniula to help in the experience department. JP Eloff will pull the strings from flyhalf, and Alex Elkins is a football standout and a physical specimen who looks set to play on the wing.

NAME POS CLUB COUNTRY CAPS
Mackintosh, Jamie* PR Montpellier (FR) New Zealand 1
MacLellan, Angus PR Chicago Lions USA –
Falcon, Cameron HO New Orleans USA –
Fawsitt, Dylan HO Life USA –
Allen, Justin LO Chinnor (UK) USA –
Civetta, Nick LO Medicei (IT) USA –
Dargan, Pierce FL Clontarf (IR) USA –
Davis, Aaron FL Columbus USA –
Joseph, Chad FL Dallas RFC Australia –
Malcolm, Peter FL Wheeling Jesuit USA –
Kalm, Sebastián* N8 Lindenwood Chile –
Davies, Shaun SH Life USA 1
Saint, Chris SH Potomac Exiles USA –
Shaw, Robbie SH Hartpury (UK) USA 12
Eloff, JP FH Chicago Lions USA 4
Howden, Taylor FH Columbus USA –
Kunkel, Chris FH Richmond (UK) USA –
Harajly, Ahmad CE Detroit Tradesmen USA –
Hughston, Matt CE Charlotte USA –
Suniula, Roland CE Chalon (FR) USA 17
Elkins, Alex WI Columbus USA –
Hanson, Allan FB Wheeling Jesuit USA –
Mizell, Zac FB Austin Blacks USA –


SACRAMENTO

Nothing shy-looking about the forward pack that contains ARC captaincy experience in both Olive Kilifi and Ray Barkwill. All-American prop Val Lee-Lo has a chance to take another step forward, and there is a lot of beef in the likes of Sione Sina and James Reddey, who both top 123kg (270lbs) on the scales. Former Eagles Kyle Sumsion and John Quill could prove a very strong combination on the flanks.

The halfbacks look a bit of a gamble with tricky Fijian scrumhalf Jope Motokana and tall Ireland-based flyhalf Garrett Brewer the most likely combination. There is a strong Pacific feel to the backline aside from Bergamasco, winger Rashad Harbor, and Ryan Thompson, older brother of injured winger Brett.

NAME POS CLUB COUNTRY CAPS
Kefu, Toke PR Sacramento Blackhawks USA –
Kilifi, Olive PR Seattle Saracens USA 19
Lee-Lo, Valdemar PR Seattle Saracens USA –
Barkwill, Ray HO Castaway Wanderers (CA) Canada 30
Inong, Josh HO Santa Rosa Philippines ?
Meeson, Robert LO Santa Rosa USA –
Reddey, James LO Sacramento Blackhawks England –
Sina, Sione LO UCal Golden Bears USA –
Quill, John FL Dolphin (IR) USA 17
Sumsion, Kyle FL Brigham Young USA 5
Koewler, Ryan N8 Sacramento Capitals USA –
Holland, Josh SH SFGG USA –
Motokana, Jope SH Seattle Saracens USA –
Brewer, Garrett FH St. Mary’s (IR) USA –
Takiveikata, Pate FH Metropolis USA –
Bergamasco, Mirco CE Zebre (IT) Italy 89
Qoro, Nemia CE Life West USA –
Tavake, Kali CE Sacramento Blackhawks USA –
Thompson, Ryan CE Tempe USA –
Harbor, Rashad WI Dallas Reds USA –
Tikoisuva, Joeli WI Metropolis USA –
Vailala, Fatai WI East Palo Alto Razorbacks USA –
Bennett, Harry FB Santa Monica Australia –


SAN DIEGO

There’s a long way to go in the forward pack, though they will have three ARC front rowers in Hubert Buydens, Mike Sosene-Feagai, and Joe Taufete’e. Big Chilean lock or no8 Nikola Bursic will give them some go-forward, and if rumours are true Clever will be a big help in the back row.

On paper the backs look the best in the competition. Morath and Tom Bliss are a quality halfback pairing for this level, and the outside backs are all internationals. Ryne ‘Pono’ Haitsuka is the only one without a test cap, but he has international sevens experience and great footwork. Ngwenya and Tim Stanfill provide lethal speed on the wings. Expect Mackenzie to play in the midfield, possibly outside Mike Te’o with Matyas at fullback.

NAME POS CLUB COUNTRY CAPS
Buydens, Hubert* PR Castaway Wanderers (CA) Canada 43
Kalemani, Jeffrey PR Santa Monica Tonga –
Taungakava, Sam PR Seattle Saracens USA –
Sosene-Feagai, Mike HO Belmont Shore USA 4
Taufete’e, Joseph HO Belmont Shore USA 5
Bursic, Nikola N8 Craighouse Old Boys (CL) Chile 8
Zuberi, Jabari N8 Santa Monica USA –
Bliss, Tom SH Ealing Trailfinders (UK) USA 1
Purdon, Charlie SH Santa Monica South Africa –
Konrad, Kalei FH OMBAC USA –
Morath, Kurt* FH Biarritz (FR) Tonga 30
Haitsuka, Ryne CE Mystic River USA –
Mackenzie, Phil CE Sale Sharks (UK) Canada 32
Te’o, Mike CE Belmont Shore USA 4
Ngwenya, Takudzwa WI Biarritz (FR) USA 35
Stanfill, Tim WI Seattle Saracens USA 6
Matyas, Ryan FB Old Blue USA 2


SAN FRANCISCO

This group looks a bit of a mixed bag so far. Tom Coolican is back state-side with former u20 rake Codi Jones a solid backup, and youngster Siaosi Mahoni looks a very big prospect – figuratively and literally – in the second row. The brothers Tameilau – prop Maka and no8 David – should provide a lot of go-forward.

US-eligible Michael Reid is a good pickup at scrumhalf and should have one of the Kiwis outside him, with either Orene Ai’i and Martini Talapusi both capable at flyhalf or fullback. If the rumours are true Muliaina can be a great addition at the back, while Blevins will play a leading role in the midfield and the wings are strong with Hawley and Kingsley McGowan most likely.

NAME POS CLUB COUNTRY CAPS
Latu, Patrick PR SFGG USA –
Lolohea, Niko PR Life West USA –
Tameilau, Maka PR Life West USA –
Coolican, Tom HO Sydney Stars (AU) USA 8
Finau, Jacob HO Life West USA –
Jones, Codi HO Cal Maritime USA –
Colvill, John LO Life West USA –
Mahoni, Siaosi LO East Palo Alto Bulldogs USA –
Finau, Sam N8 Auckland University (NZ) Tonga –
Tameilau, David N8 Life West USA 4
Ferris, Devereaux SH Life West New Zealand –
Reid, Michael SH Spotswood United (NZ) USA –
Ai’i, Orene FH Life West New Zealand –
Talapusi, Martini FH Belfast (NZ) Samoa –
Blevins, Nick* CE Calgary Hornets (CA) Canada 32
Haley, Michael CE Olympic USA –
Hawley, Colin* WI Olympic USA 7
McGowan, Kingsley WI Trinity College (IR) USA 2
O’Hara, Jack WI Santa Clara USA –
Muliaina, Mils* FB Zebre (IT) New Zealand 100


*player not named in the official release


http://www.americasrugbynews.com/2016/03/16/ngwenya-pro-rugby-roster-reveal
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Post by Rowanbi Sat 16 Apr 2016, 10:27 pm

Article in today's Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/apr/16/doug-schoninger-us-pro-rugby

From the 36th floor of One Penn Plaza, where Doug Schoninger keeps an office, the view is simply extraordinary. The skyscrapers of Manhattan spread away to the south. To the west, the glittering Hudson and the Statue of Liberty herself. But then, in New York City, such views are ten a penny.


US professional rugby a step closer as five teams begin training for kick-off
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In the United States of America, so are professional sports leagues. From Sunday, Schoninger will have one of his own: PRO Rugby.

Starting a pro sports league in America in a little under a year is a remarkable feat. Success will be more remarkable still. The NBA and NHL are entering the playoffs, MLB and MLS are hitting their stride, the NFL casts its shadow over all. The sports pages and airwaves are full.

Still, five teams – Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver and Ohio – will play until July. All players will be centrally contracted. There will be tweaks to the laws – including no draws. Games will be broadcast free around the globe on aol.com and by ONE World Sports on cable. And Schoninger, successful on Wall Street in high-yield bonds and in stadium financing, is paying.

By some metrics rugby union is the fastest growing sport in America. But America does not know rugby. So this begs the question: if San Francisco score a great try at Sacramento but everyone is elsewhere, watching the Golden State Warriors set the court on fire, will they make a sound?

Not for the first or last time in a hugely genial, hour-long conversation, Schoninger raps the table for emphasis, Francis Underwood-style.

“I know one thing: if the fans don’t engage then I’m probably doing something wrong. This is fan-centric – in the sports business you work for the fans and if there aren’t any fans, you aren’t working for anyone.”

Ticket sales for the first two games have been “sporadic”. But that’s OK, he says. Schoninger seems to see what others call problems – brief build time, his own newness to the game, an uncertain public – and co-opt them as strengths. “But that’s OK” could be his most-used expression.

This is PRO Rugby’s “beta” year, he says, in which things can be expected to fail.

I don’t want to give people things they don’t want and I don’t know if they want rugby. I'm trying to wake people up
Doug Schoninger
“I don’t want to give people things that they don’t want and I don’t know if they want [rugby] or not. But I’m trying to wake people up: if you really want it, do it. Don’t come back in a couple years and say ‘I wish I had supported more, now it’s gone.’

Schoninger is not saying he will be gone in two years, although with no big sponsorship or media deals his “pockets are getting lighter and lighter”. He has said elsewhere that he’s committed for three, after which he may or may not consider other investors.

Either way, Schoninger thinks the key is to knit his league into the roots of the game, where he hopes to find a young audience that knows rugby from school, college or club. Hence social media-heavy promotion.

Hence too the use of small stadiums in rugby hotbeds, mostly in the west, the east not yet providing suitable venues with surfaces that meet World Rugby regulation 22. Again, Schoninger seeks to make a virtue of it, and not just because on opening weekend it will be “raining in Denver but 80 degrees and sunny in Sacramento”.

MetLife Stadium
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MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants. Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP
“You need to embrace who you are and keep that smallness, right? I don’t think I ever want to be in a stadium bigger than 10 or 12,000. That can be an asset for us. If we try to go big we lose the contest with the NFL, no question.”

Schoninger sometimes gives the impression he is thinking out loud. But he knows some things for sure. He knows he can’t compete with the NFL. After all, he has Giants tickets.

“To me what’s importance in all sports is closeness to the pitch,” he says, “even if it’s football. That’s why I don’t like MetLife: the old Giants stadium was half the size but only had 5,000 fewer seats. Now I get that: most people are going now for the experience, the colosseum, the feel. But if you’re going for sport it’s not a good place to watch. We have to keep that. We have to keep sport.”

Boxer Stadium
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Boxer Stadium – now home to professional rugby union. Photograph: Michael P Gonos
In the case of American rugby, Schoninger says, sport means values and the values of rugby are “blue collar”: honesty, toil, teamwork, reward.

He tells a story about one venue, Boxer Stadium in San Francisco. For a while it seemed the parks department was not going to move the Gaelic football posts that stood at each end of the field.

“Those posts are set back, 10 yards from the pitch. So I told them we’d just move each penalty 10 yards closer, right?” He laughs. And though Boxer is somewhat basic – “the locker rooms are just unbearable, they’re teenie and they’re gross” – Schoninger says his players took one look and said: “This is great. This is who we are. We’re gritty, we’re raw, screw those fancy San Diego guys…”

Is this the birth of a hundred-year rugby rivalry, something to rival Leicester-Northampton, Auckland-Canterbury, England-Scotland? He laughs again.

“You make do, you know?”

Some of PRO Rugby’s players will. Salaries range from $35,000 to match fees only. International players – Mils Muliaina in San Francisco, Pedrie Wannenburg in Denver and Mirco Bergamasco in Sacramento are the most capped – are tasked with helping local talent grow.

“I went to Sacramento,” Schoninger says, “and I met a squad of players. That’s the only squad I have met so far in full. That’s when it becomes real. You’ve got this extended family. People have flown, you know? I thought, ‘Oh God, I hope I don’t disappoint.’

“But you know, you do the best you can do. And that doesn’t mean throwing money at every problem. It means making the right decisions based on the right data.”

•••
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Post by Rowanbi Sun 17 Apr 2016, 8:46 am

A one on Patriots convert Nate Ebner: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/04/nate-ebner-hit-rugby
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