By some measures the fastest growing sport in the U.S., rugby will have the chance to take some big steps forward in the minds of the American sports fan in the coming months, with the recent announcement of a new pro league next April and an official regular season Aviva Premiership match between London Irish and Saracens on March 12 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
For Bob Casey, London Irish legend and Rugby Development Director at the Club, the future has never looked brighter.
“It’s a very exciting time for USA rugby,” he told NY SportsDay by telephone on Wednesday. “There are a lot of talented athletes, talented rugby players here and the sport needs to have [an outlet at] the highest level. We are keen to help grow the game in the USA.”
At the front lines of encouraging that growth is The Legacy Agency (TLA), one of the world’s leading athlete representation, sports and entertainment marketing businesses. TLA, which successfully promoted the USA Eagles’ historic match against the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field on November 1 — to the tune of a sellout at the venerable football venue — will again work to make this contest between two UK clubs with huge international followings.
“This will be a great game of rugby, a physical game,” said Casey. “Saracens are the current holders of the LV= Cup and for London Irish this is a huge game. But more than that, it will be a real party at Red Bull Arena — a cracker day for kids, families, everyone.”
Taking place just before St. Patrick’s Day, this ground-breaking announcement is ultimately a milestone in the development of London Irish and of the League which underlines the growing international interest in Aviva Premiership Rugby and showcases it in the biggest sports market in the world.
“I think the Americans really get sports, they are very competitive,” added Casey, who racked up 232 appearances during his 10 years at the Club. “Fans will love the fact that this is such a physical battle, they will enjoy seeing the tackles, the hits, without helmets and shoulder pads, the raw elements, and not lacking in skill. These are two well-matched sides.”
London Irish boasts one of the largest global followings of any rugby club in the UK. Established in 1898, London Irish became a founding member of Aviva Premiership Rugby in 1996 and have played in England’s top division ever since. They finished as runners-up in 2008-09. Their opponent, Saracens, was founded in 1876, and is one of the longest-running sports clubs in the world. An original member of Premiership Rugby, they have won the title in 2010-11 and 2014-15.
“We have had incredible support, thousands of tickets have already been sold, and we have a great partner in TLS,” noted Casey. “We want to make this work, and make sure that people in New York and all over America enjoy it.”