Lineouts, rucks, mauls and scrums are coming to Round Rock this season.
Austin Elite Rugby announced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the franchise would be competing in the newly-formed Major League Rugby union. All home games at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex.
“All I know is there are a lot of big guys charging at each other,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said. “It’s one of those sports that continues to grow and this park is always busy. The Express have been very successful and I think Austin Elite will be successful as well.”
The four-game home season begins on May 3 against NOLA Gold and includes matches against the San Diego Legion on May 25, the Utah Warriors on June 1 and the Seattle Seawolves on June 8.
All four games, including the first game in franchise history, will be on national television, being broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, the newly-launched ESPN+ or AT&T local networks.
“CBS Sports Network is perfect for us,” MLR Commissioner Dean Howes said. “They think we’re cute, we think they’re cute and its a perfect match. But you have to establish a benchmark.
“The rugby fan, we have to show a good product, the sports fan we have to convert to the sport and the general populous we need to convert to being a fan.”
The capacity of the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex is currently around 1,500 seats and with VIP and standing room only seating can exceed 3,000 spectators.
The league will feature seven teams in 2018 with teams from Dallas and New York City joining in 2019. Howes said the league could include 10 or 11 teams in 2020, but the league doesn’t want to grow too quickly.
Andrew Suniula was born in American Samoa and moved to New Zealand as a young boy.
He’s played for the United States national team and played professionally in England, Romania and the United States before joining Austin Elite for its inaugural MLR season this year.
“This isn’t somewhere you think of when you talk about rugby, but that’s something we want to change,” he said. “Not only in a town like Round Rock but across her country. A sport like this with its value to the culture will thrive in a spot like this. There are a lot of things to be excited about.”