A group of American investors has reportedly promised to launch a new USA rugby league that could recruit some of the world’s most popular players to the country.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the league – known as the National Rugby Football League (NRFL) – could be launched in 2022. The league, which would have ties to the NFL, would allow teams to have a salary cap similar to that of the English Premiership at £7 million.
Speaking to Telegraph Sport, the league’s commissioner Michael Clements outlined their ambition to ‘become the biggest league in the world’.
Our goal is to put the best product on the pitch,’ Clements said. ‘So we will need some of the best athletes, whether or not they are the names mentioned I can’t say.’
The NRFL has, according to the report, already established links with top rugby agents, including Hilton Houghton, who represents Springbok captain Siya Kolisi among others.
Houghton told the Telegraph that the proposed league could be similar to Indian Premier League cricket, which features leading cricketers from across the globe scattered among local teams.
‘They want to make it the Hollywood of rugby,’ Houghton said.
‘This won’t be a dumping ground for international players. It will be more like the IPL players, where you bring a Ben Stokes or AB de Villiers as your sprinkling of stardust on top of largely domestic squads.’
The league is proposed to run between April and July – the NFL’s off-season – and will comprise eight teams who will play on a home-and-away basis.
The USA’s current premier rugby tournament, Major League Rugby, had entered into its third official season before the Covid-19 pandemic. The league grew from an initial seven-team tournament in 2018 to 12 teams split into two conferences in 2020. Among the high-profile names playing in the tournament in 2020 were former Bok prop Beast Mtawarira, French centre-turned-forward Mathieu Bastareaud and New Zealand midfielders Ma’a Nonu and Rene Ranger.
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