Twenty-two Major League Rugby players represented the USA Eagles and Canada national teams in the opening fixtures of the 2019 Americas Rugby Championship this weekend, with the USA routing Chile 71-8 and Canada falling to a last-gasp Uruguay try, 20-18.
Ten MLR players made it into the the Eagles’ matchday 23, with Cam Dolan (NOLA Gold), Hanco Germishuys and Shaun Davies (both Glendale Raptors) all scoring tries. Tadhg Leader of the New England Free Jacks - a new addition for MLR Season 3 in 2020 - earned his first cap from the bench in the second half, registering his debut try in the process.
Seventeen of the USA Eagles’ 35-man roster for the opening ARC matches away to Chile and Argentina XV are drawn from MLR squads, including four each from San Diego Legion and Glendale Raptors. MLR’s Cam Dolan, Luke Hume and John Quill (both Rugby United New York), and Mike Te’o (San Diego Legion) all boast over 20 caps, while San Diego’s Kipeli Pifeleti will hope to join Leader in making his test debut during the Championship.
Canada’s squad for the Uruguay game had a distinct Toronto Arrows flavor, with six of the matchday 23 plying their trade with the MLR newcomers, including the precocious club captain, 23-year-old Lucas Rumball, who skippered the national side on Saturday. In all, 15 of Canada’s 28-man ARC roster plays in the MLR, with NOLA Gold, Austin Elite Rugby, Seattle Seawolves and Utah Warriors all contributing players.
The Canadians came up against a Uruguay side including eight MLR players from Houston SaberCats, Austin Elite Rugby, and NOLA Gold try-scorer Ignacio Dotti. The ARC - now in its fourth season - could feature upwards of 40 MLR players. As well as the Uruguayan contingent, Brazil named the Utah Warriors’ New Zealand-born fly-half Joshua Reeves at 10 for their defeat to Argentina XV.
Many of the league’s overseas internationals were recruited following the successful MLR combine in October 2018. Players from Brazil, Chile, Canada and Uruguay attended a week-long selection camp at Infinity Park, CO, home of the Glendale Raptors, culminating in a trial match between the hosts and a Rugby Americas XV.
“At MLR, we’re proud to be a proving ground and a showcase for the very best North American rugby talent,” said MLR Commissioner Dean Howes. “The number of Eagles and Canadians from MLR shows the recruitment and development work our clubs are doing is already bearing fruit. At the league and club level, we’ve built excellent collaborative relationships with all the national unions competing in the Americas Rugby Championship. MLR is committed to seeing rugby thrive across the Americas.”
“Major League Rugby has assembled some of the top rugby talent in the Americas,” said Rugby Americas CEO Dan Payne. “Now, the strong alignment between North America’s professional club game and the international sides will drive player development, fan engagement and commercial growth. The Americas Rugby Championship 2019 is going to be the most competitive yet, and we expect to see a real impact from the MLR pros across all of the ARC member unions. With MLR and the Americas Rugby Championship working together, rugby’s future across the continent is very bright.”
MLR and its clubs actively encourage players to strive for international recognition. The league has established a constructive dialog with USA Rugby and Rugby Canada to help maximize the opportunities available to the athletes. Every MLR player continues to be paid while on duty with their national side.