While The Red Bulls get their season going this weekend, next weekend another global sport not too far behind soccer, but looking to make a push into the United States, will take to the pitch at red Bill Arena; rugby. It will be professional rugby imported from the UK, between Saracens FC and London Irish.
London Irish are planning to ignite New Jersey with an attacking brand of rugby, according to head of rugby operations Glenn Delaney, ahead of their ground-breaking and ‘must-win’ game against Saracens.
On March 12, the Exiles, as London Irish are known, will host the first-ever Aviva Premiership Rugby fixture outside of British shores when they take on the league leaders in Harrison.
And the stakes could not be higher for both sides, with London Irish looking to gather some momentum down at the bottom while Saracens bid to consolidate their first-place position.
Defending champions Saracens have once again been formidable this season, but last month’s defeat to Wasps and the recent draw with Sale proves they are not invincible.
The Exiles’ home form has also been strong of late, having picked up their season total of 13 points from their last four games in front of their own fans.
And Delaney knows his side must replicate the spirit they’ve showed at the Madejski Stadium across the pond.
“Our approach to the game is that it is a must-win, we’re in must-win games every week,” he said. “And the reality is we’re playing Saracens, it’s as tough a fixture as you’re going to get when you’re taking on the champions. It is a great opportunity for us to play the game our way, to create some space, some width and try and move the football.
“That is where we like to get people like Topsy Ojo involved in the game on the outside of moves that show him finishing and us playing an expansive way. That is London Irish’s philosophy and our ethos, we will be going to showcase exactly what we can do.
“It is a home game and we want it to be our home game and we want to play with the same passion and spirit that we do at home.
“Our home form has been very good and we have to replicate that at the Red Bull Arena on the 12th, he added. “I am sure the people of the area will get behind us and adopt us as their home club and cheer us on.”
Rugby is growing year on year in North America and the Exiles can boast two Canadians among their ranks, Jebb Sinclair and Ciaran Hearn, who both appeared at the Rugby World Cup last year.
And Delaney is confident that Aviva Premiership Rugby can continue to win hearts and minds on that side of the world – admitting rugby is a sport that very much resonates with Americans.
“The Americans seem very open to it, we have met a lot of American football clubs who have used our facility for training and they love the game,” he added.“They like the physicality, it is something innate to American sports – even baseball when they have a bench-clearing dust-up, it is pretty physical. They enjoy what we do, but they think we’re a bit different because we’re a continuity based game where there is a competition for possession at every breakdown. So being able to see someone run and aggressively clear someone out is quite new. They see synergies with the mentality of some of their sports and they are intrigued by it and as they come to understand the laws and the nuances of the game and how it is played tactically, I think they will grow to enjoy it even more. Certainly I think there is a good opportunity to make an impact into their hearts over there and give them an offering which they will enjoy.”
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