x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Aviva Premiership sides looking at playing US matches

Much like NBA and NFL teams have recently done in London, top English rugby sides are exploring the possibility of staging competitive matches in the US, where the sport is slowly growing.

American Hayden Smith, shown above at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, plays club rugby with Saracens. Gabriel Bouys / AFP
American Hayden Smith, shown above at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, plays club rugby with Saracens. Gabriel Bouys / AFP

A number of English Premiership clubs are looking at playing competitive rugby matches in the United States as early as next season, The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The US national team are regular participants in the World Cup, and the country is seen as a potentially large market for the game.

“We are working on plans for a game out there,” chief executive of Premiership Rugby Mark McCafferty told the newspaper. “There are opportunities; we have to find the right entry point and the right time.

“We have got to recognise that it will build. It is slowly beginning to come through (in the US). They have players who are beginning to come through.”

Among the clubs reported to be interested are London Irish, who are looking at playing a home match in Boston or New York.

Saracens and Leicester are also interested in playing as an away side, although Leicester chief executive Simon Cohen warned of the potential costs involved.

“There has been some talk and there would be a desire from our part to be involved. In practice, somebody has to put a deal on the table because it is not a cheap deal – you are probably looking at 100,000 pounds (Dh619,635) for one team to be out there.

“There are all sorts of sponsorship deals that may reduce that cost but it is not as cheap as playing on the other side of the east Midlands.”

World champions New Zealand are expected to announce shortly that they will play a Test against the US in Chicago in November, ahead of their annual trip to Europe, while an increasing number of Americans are playing in England and France.

Among the Americans plying their trade in Europe are Samu Manoa, who has scored six tries for Northampton Saints this season, Scott LaValla with Stade Francais and both Chris Wyles and Hayden Smith with Saracens.

The NBA and NFL regularly hold competitive matches in London.

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