New York City’s first professional rugby team is set to host it’s biggest match of 2018 on Saturday, March 24 at Riverdale’s iconic Gaelic Park.
The newly formed Rugby United New York will be joining a national league that is also newly formed, Major League Rugby, coming 2019.
This spring, RUNY is playing an exhibition season to give New Yorkers a taste of what is to come from what the league calls America’s fastest growing sport.
“Despite living and playing rugby in the city for 20 years, I was astonished by the player numbers and the growth of the sport in the region,” said chairman and founder James Kennedy.
“We want to work with the entire community to grow the sport we all love and make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone,” he added.
RUNY has already started to positively impact their local community at a grassroots level, one of the pillars of MLR.
The club has partnered with Play Rugby USA, a youth development non-profit that uses the unique power of rugby to empower and inspire youth, primarily from underserved communities, and Solace House, a mental health awareness center in New York.
RUNY’s inaugural 30-man team is entirely comprised of local players.
Most of them live and play rugby within the city while some come from surrounding areas such as New Jersey and Westchester.
The roster was whittled down from an initial 50 player group who were invited from clubs throughout the tri-state area.
Led by head coach Mike Tolkin, former head coach of the USA national rugby team and native New Yorker, Rugby United NY will kick off its exhibition schedule in March with its match on the 24th against the Boston Mystics.
Joining Tolkin on the coaching staff will be assistant coaches Bruce McLane, Andrew Britt and Vili Vakasisikakala.
“This is a particularly historic moment for rugby in New York,” said Tolkin. “This will be the first domestic professional endeavor in the city and it provides an opportunity for the wealth of talented players and coaches found in our great local clubs to come together as a formidable team,” he added.
The match at Gaelic Park will feature RUNY facing off against a team from the city’s traditional sporting rival, Boston.
Before the main event kicks off, another classic New York matchup will take place between the NYPD and the FDNY rugby teams.
The annual match between the city’s service departments is played to benefit McNaughton-Engeldrum fund for the families of fallen personnel.
Rugby United New York’s home match against Boston, which will be open to the public, is set for Saaturday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
The full day of rugby will kickoff at 4 p.m. with the matchup between the FDNY and NYPD.
While not confirmed, it is anticipated that RUNY will make either Gaelic Park or Fordham University its home venue for the 2019 season.