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Major League Rugby is supposed to kick off in a handful of months, and many questions remain. The one that should be the easiest to answer – how many teams will be in the competition? – even lingers. Officially, there are six announced teams, though a seventh is coming.
Rugby Today has learned through anonymous sources that a group out of San Diego has put its money down and will own a franchise, and the plan is for said team to be a part of the inaugural season. To rabid MLR news seekers, this isn’t exactly news, as rumors have been abounding, but more an affirmation.
One such rumor attaches former USA 7s captain and coach Matt Hawkins to the San Diego team. He was an assistant coach for the San Diego Breakers in PRO Rugby’s only campaign. He has also served on USA Rugby’s board of directors, coached the 7s Eagles, captained the 7s Eagles, and he earned one cap for the 15s team.
When asked whether or not he was involved with San Diego’s yet-to-be-announced MLR team, in addition to joking about being available as a mobile tighthead prop, Hawkins said, “I love rugby, and rugby will always be a part of me no matter where I run and hide. And I think the MLR is doing some good things, and if somehow there’s a group here in San Digeo that’s able to be a part of it, I will definitely see what I can do to be a part of that.”
San Diego joins Denver as the only major metropolitan area to have fielded a PRO team that is also slated to field an MLR side. Unlike in Denver, though, San Diego isn't going to be able to rely an established club, its infrastructure, leadership and roster.
In PRO, a few teams were able to rely very heavily on local talent to fill their rosters. San Diego wasn't one of them, as several international players and a smattering of Americans from all over filled the Breakers roster. The one local benefactor for the Breakers, at least in on-field personnel, was the USA's 7s team, which resided in Chula Vista, Calif. Those players are still there, so Eagles could double-dip in the MLR like they did in PRO. And with the Summer Olympics not clashing with the MLR in 2018 like it did with PRO in 2016, there could be even more Eagle influence in a San Diego side.