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South Valley Journal

Professional rugby arrives in Herriman

Apr 10, 2018 03:47PM ● By Greg James

The Utah Warriors have signed several players as part of their first team, including former Colorado State defensive tackle Alexander Tucci. (Utah Warriors)

The newest professional sports league, Major League Rugby, has included the Utah Warriors. Their first match is scheduled for March 30.

“The creation of the Utah Warriors will be the key to the growth of the game in Utah,” Warriors CEO Kimball Kjar said in a press release. “It (rugby) is the world’s second-largest sport.”

The team’s first head coach is Alf Daniels. He is a native of New Zealand and has coached at nearly every level of rugby in his 30-year career. 

“Utah is a gold mine of potential top-level rugby players,” Daniels said.

Daniels played rugby until after serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He made several age-level teams. As a coach, he worked with top-flight players on the New Zealand under 20s and the Utah Selects 7s.

The Warriors have signed several players to their roster. 

Among the Warriors’ signees is former BYU All-American rugby player and NFL running back Paul Lasike. He played two seasons with the Chicago Bears. At BYU, he played rugby from 2009–2014.

The Warriors have also signed former University of Utah offensive tackle and USA Eagle John Cullen. He was part of the Seattle Saracens that won the 2015 British Columbia Rugby Union Championship in 2015.

The USA Eagles (the United States national rugby team) have selected three Warriors for the 2018 America’s Rugby Championship. Matt Jensen, Lasike and Joshua Whippy are scheduled to travel to Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay for the tournament. 

The Warriors will use Zions Bank Stadium as their home for the 2018 season. The stadium is part of the Real Salt Lake complex in Herriman. Zions Bank Stadium seats 5,000 and features a press box, team locker rooms and a 40-foot digital scoreboard. 

The Warriors are scheduled to have seven home matches. The home schedule includes matches against two professional Canadian rugby teams, Ontario and Alberta, and five matches against MLR teams.

“This is it—Major League Rugby is here in the United States, and Utah is at the epicenter,” Kjar said. “This is a family-friendly sport with world-class professional athletes that will be played in Utah’s newest stadium. We are confident that we will be contenders for the title. The Warriors will be a bright new entertainment destination and team for Utah to support.”

The Warriors’ opening match is March 30 against the Glendale Raptors. They are also scheduled to play the Ontario Arrows April 6 and the Alberta Wolfpack April 20.

The league begins play this spring with nine teams along with the Warriors. The other teams are in Glendale, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Houston, Texas; Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Seattle, Washington; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The current league offices are located in Salt Lake City. 

The team includes players from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Zimbabwe, South Africa and England.