If you live in San Diego and always wanted to bet on rugby, you may be able to do so now that Pro Rugby San Diego will debut USD’s Torero Stadium versus Pro Rugby Sacramento. The professional rugby league is so new that teams don’t have names or mascots.
They also don’t have helmets or pads – and not because of small budgets; that’s just the way the game is played –, which means the players will probably not have any teeth either in the near future. Fortunately, the first season will be a short one. For example, San Diego is scheduled to play 6 games from the start of the season through November.
Other than eschewing that barely concussion-preventing football protective gear, the two sports are rather similar. Both are invasion games, but you can’t pass the rugby ball forward. Instead, you can pass it latterly or run it or kick it forward. Players can use their heads when tackling and blocking. League organizers hope that the game’s popularity at local schools will translate into a dedicated fan base – more than 60 local high schools have rugby teams – and sponsorship, so that maybe the teams get to have a name. San Francisco, Denver and Ohio also have Pro Rugby teams.
Pro Rugby San Diego is a charter member of the North American professional rugby league. The diverse group of athletes with immense depth and experience are led by head coach Ray Egan. The roster includes Hubert Buydens and Phil Mackenzie who have a combined 74 caps for Canada. With such a level of leadership, San Diego is set to bring a lot of exciting and creative play to the 2016 season – and to people who bet on rugby as well. Egan is an Irishman with extensive Munster and Ireland age grade teams coaching experience. As an Elite Player Development Coach for Munster, he worked with several current Irish National team players.
The coaching staff is rounded up by assistant coaches Rob Hoadley and Matt Hawkins. The former was born in London and had an extensive playing career at center with both London Irish and Wasps, where he would go on to become defense coach under the legendary defensive guru Shaun Edwards. The latter started his U.S. rugby career playing for OMBAC and the SoCal Griffins before representing ’Merica at both 15s and 7s, where he excelled as a player and captain for several years. Both have had prior coaching experience in the United States. How about the San Diego Vigilantes? As a team name, that is. It does have the potential to be misconstrued, but the city motto is Semper Vigilans, after all.