Sacramento readies for first international rugby match

Sacramento readies for first international rugby match

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Bonney Field will be put to the test once it opens with an opening night match between the hometown Sacramento Republic FC and Colorado Rapids Reserves before hosting the USA Eagles and Canada in the biggest North American rugby rivalry a night later.

The stadium, scheduled to seat more than 8,000 spectators, began construction on the Cal Expo grounds in March and is scheduled for completion prior to the June 20 opener and the June 21 match between the Eagles and Canada.

Though the facility is still under construction, 3,500-plus tickets have already been sold for the Eagles’ final Summer Series test, the first international rugby match to be held in northern California since 2009.

“Sacramento is a very passionate sports town with a strong fan base for the Kings, River Cats, and now Republic FC,” Eagle Blaine Scully said. “Playing in the newly-constructed Sacramento Republic stadium will be a great platform to expose Sacramento to international and professional rugby players competing at the highest level.

“With so many Eagles from northern California, it is a good opportunity for us to put in a good performance against a strong Canadian team. Having only played in my hometown once before, I am personally looking forward to it.”

“It’s good to see the market respond to the match being played in Sacramento,” USA Rugby Events Director Jen Gray said. “The city and rugby community were adamant about hosting a rugby match and they’ve shown over the course of the past few months why they deserves to host a game of this caliber.”

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The Eagles and Canada will each be finishing their IRB Pacific Nations Cup pool campaigns at Bonney Field. In the first PNC match for the Eagles, Japan will visit StubHub Center in Carson the week prior to the match in Sacramento.

Canada has held the series advantage in recent times, including three wins from three in 2013. Last May, in the first match of that year’s Pacific Nations Cup, Adam Siddall kicked three penalties in a 16-9 loss in Edmonton. Canada won both legs of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier in August to book a trip to England, a feat the Eagles achieved earlier this year against Uruguay.

Canada has won each of the last seven meetings between the border rivals, with the Eagles’ last win dating back to a Fourth of July victory in 2009 in Charleston, S.C.

“The most important thing for us is to focus one match at a time and continue to target things we need to do in order to put in a good performance,” Scully said. “We must play to our systems and demonstrate we are on the right trajectory for the World Cup. This summer offers a great chance to play two tests against World Cup pool members. This will give us data and the ability to measure ourselves accurately against competition we will see in England.

“Canada is our rivalry game, so there won’t need to be extra motivation for a group of highly-competitive athletes.”

The Northern California Youth Rugby Association will be hosting its Summit on the Game the weekend of the match and will include former England 7s captain Ben Gollings, former Eagles Luke Gross and Mike MacDonald, and USA Rugby High Performance Referee Manager Richard Every as presenters.

Only 2,000 of the 7,000 NCYRA-registered rugby players play at the collegiate and club level – the remaining 5,000 are youth players. Jesuit High School, undefeated during its 2014 season, has graduated Eagles Eric Fry, Louis Stanfill, and Blaine Scully, who have all played professional rugby overseas.

“Youth rugby in the United States has continued to blossom,” Scully said. “If we can continue to develop and give opportunities to youth, develop meaningful competition and high performance programs to sustain their growth and development, we have a chance to challenge the best countries in the world.”

Kickoff from Sacramento is scheduled for 3:00 P.M. PT Saturday, June 21, on Universal Sports Network. Tickets start at just $12. Follow updates on the Men’s Eagles on Twitter and Facebook as they prepare for June’s Summer Series.

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