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The National Rugby Football League claims the Rough Riders, being referred to as America’s first professional rugby team, will play the Leicester Tigers Aug. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, in an exhibition match dubbed the Independence Cup.
This is the fledgling organization’s second run at the Independence Cup. In 2013, the NRFL claimed it was going to put together a team to play against the London Irish at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, but the game never materialized.
There’s a well-documented history of supposed professional rugby ventures making claims that end up being false, and much has been written about those ventures. Whether or not the 2015 Independence Cup ends up being just another example is yet to be determined.
In 2013 a 7s concoction called the Grand Prix went belly up, too. Like the NRFL, it had made big claims in previous years and failed to deliver on them, but in 2013 a venue was announced, a date was picked and tickets went on sale – much like with the Independence Cup currently.
The NFL Network and the national rugby unions of other countries made statements and press releases about the 2013 Grand Prix, giving hope to that year’s attempt to get the event off the ground. This time around, the Philadelphia Eagles and Leicester Tigers aren’t being shy about putting their names on the Independence Cup.
So a professional rugby venture has been as close to coming to fruition as the NRFL’s Independence Cup is now and still not actually made it. We’re not in unchartered waters here.
According to reports, the NRFL plans to host a camp in Minnesota to whittle its initial 60-man roster down to about 30. That 30 is supposed to fly overseas to be immersed in a full-time rugby environment for a month or so ahead of the big match.
Seems pretty costly, so one has to wonder what happens if ticket pre-sale, which is open now, doesn’t go as well as planned? Will the fledgling organization still have the financial wherewithall to go forward with a domestic camp, a long international assembly and the game itself?
I, for one, am skeptical, but the fact that such organizations as the Eagles and Tigers are hitching their wagons to the Independence Cup means I probably ought to write about it, whether I think it’s going to happen or not. For the record, I want it to happen and be a smashing success, and so much so that the NRFL can launch a professional league off the back of it as planned. What a dream that would be.