Cover Photo Credit: Wade B Photos
*This article contains promotional links to Stadium Gear & Apparel
Preface: Did you know that globally, rugby has about the same number of fans as American football? (USA Rugby Report & Sports Show Report) Living in the United States, you would never expect that. With only a new professional league (MLR) that has been around for 3+ years and a saturated U.S. market, many casual American sports fans are not familiar with the rugby and are not aware that it is professionally being played in the United States.
Utah is not known to have a major sports landscape compared to other states, but with the addition of the Utah Warriors Professional Rugby team, that landscape has grown. The team has attracted sports talent from around the globe, including two members of the U.S. National Team that competed at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, yet fans are still getting to know the team.
The Hive Sports is a leading Utah sports media outlet, and have provided their first reactions to learning about the state's latest professional team. Enjoy their take on Utah having a new team, what they knew about rugby, and which Warriors' players they are looking forward to watching in 2021.
If you love rugby or want to sport national pride, check out our rugby apparel collection here.
-Carson, Stadium Gear & Apparel
First Reactions to Utah Professional Rugby
By Daniel Olsen and Zach Reger
At The Hive Sports, we have primarily covered prep, college and pro sports in the state of Utah. While football and basketball are our most followed sports in the state, we welcome the opportunity to cover other sports as well. This Q&A session from our panel will provide some insight as to what we currently know about the Utah Warriors and what we would like to know more about from a rugby standpoint.
What do you know about rugby?
Daniel Olsen: Honestly I did not know a lot about rugby before I started researching. I know when I type the word “rugby” on my phone, a ball that looks like a lighter colored cross between a football and a soccer ball appeared. From what I’ve heard, rugby is big in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. I have met a few colleagues from those countries who have told me how much they like the sport. They told me about some of the gruesome injuries that happen in this tackle sport which I feel is mostly due to not wearing pads. I do remember seeing a funny Friends episode where Ross tries to play Rugby to impress a girl.
New Zealand Rugby fan with national shirt. Purchase this shirt here.
Zach Reger: Rugby is a sport that I do not know a lot about, but it has been a sport that I have always been interested in. I know the basics, like what the scrum is and you have to touch the ball down for the try to count, but I want to learn more about the rules because I know there is a lot I do not know. In high school, a group of friends and I actually tried to start a club rugby team, but unfortunately, that fell through. I grew up playing football, so I enjoy both watching and playing contact sports, and one thing I do know with absolute certainty is that rugby is a full-contact sport. One of my favorite movies growing up was Invictus, which was about the South Africa National Rugby team, and that movie is what first got me interested in Rugby. I also always enjoy watching the New Zealand All Blacks’ Haka.
What do you want to learn about Rugby?
Daniel Olsen: Everything. I haven’t played or watched rugby so I would like to dive in and learn the rules, history and famous athletes within the sport. I especially want to learn about the local team, the Utah Warriors. It would be great to make it to some games and get a chance to meet the players on the team. I enjoy collecting hats and other sports gear. For that reason, I’ll have to pick up some Warriors fan gear to represent one of the proud professional sports teams in Utah.
Zach Reger: I am most excited to learn about the strategy that goes on with the game of Rugby. I consider myself a strategist, whether it is when I am playing a sport or when I am playing a board game at home, I want to find out how to win. I want to learn about how different teams approach their games specifically and what the different styles of play are. I believe I will be able to figure some of this out once the season starts, and I can watch more.
Did you know about the Utah Warriors?
Daniel Olsen: I had heard a little bit about the team. I know some friends and family in Herriman and did hear that they play in Zions Bank Stadium out there. I know it has about 5,000 fans when filled at capacity and they are looking to relocate to build a bigger stadium that can seat at least twice as many fans.
Utah Warriors Rugby Play the Toronto Arrows at Zions Bank Stadium
Zach Reger: I did not. I was completely unaware of Major League Rugby in the United States. I kind of assumed there was a league in the U.S., but I did not what it was or how big it was. I know the sport of rugby is growing in popularity, so I hope Major League Rugby and the Utah Warriors are very successful.
What interested you when looking into the team?
Daniel Olsen: I was happy to see that they their developmental team, the Warriors Selects, won the rematch against the Rugby Utah Men's Premier Division All-Stars, by a score of 27-15. It surprised me that they originally lost when I originally looked into the team a month ago. That speaks volumes of the rugby talent we have in the state.
Zach Reger: The very first thing I noticed was the uniforms. No matter the sport, I am a huge fan of uniforms, so Utah’s stuck out to me. In complete honesty, I believe the Utah Warriors have the best uniforms in the league. The red and black colors really pop, and I love the designs on both the home and away jerseys. After researching more about the history of the team, I thought it was interesting just how new the team is. There has been a team in Salt Lake City since 2010, but the Warriors have only been around since 2018.
Utah Warriors Rugby 2021 Jersey Kit
Which player do you want to see in action most?
Daniel Olsen: I want to meet any of the hookers to ask them why they are called that and how often they get jokes about the name of their position. On a more serious note, I’d really like to meet Alex Tucci or see him play. I read that he grew up in New York City. That seems like an interesting place to grow up playing the sport. New York is a melting pot so it makes some sense that all sports have a presence there. As far as I know, rugby seems to have the biggest presence here out west in California and especially in Utah. We have a big population from the South Pacific. While I have seen American football take precedence for the majority of aspiring athletes, it does seem like rugby is rising in popularity. I know that the BYU rugby teams are quite talented and have won a couple national championships in the past at their respective level.
Alex Tucci, Prop for the Utah Warriors. Photo Credit: Davey Wilson
As far as Tucci is concerned, I would really want to dive into his game and see how an East coast style of play compares to the style here out west. In all sports it seems certain regions adopt their own offense and defense. He moved to Florida as a teen to focus on sports. How has that shaped his career? What is the importance of the prop position? These are all questions I’d love to have answered as I look more into this.
Alex Tucci Getting Ready For the 2021 Major League Rugby Season. Get His Official Merchandise, Including the Tank Top Above Here.
Zach Reger: In general, I am just excited to watch Rugby in the United States, now that I know about Major League Rugby and the Utah Warriors. In most sports, though, I favor the offense or the forwards, so I will do the same in Rugby. Because of that, I am very excited to see Matt Jensen play, since he is a lock. He also made Second Team All-MLR last year, which is impressive.
Matt Jensen of the Utah Warriors
All in all, we are looking forward to the upcoming 2021 season! Excited to have another wonderful professional team to represent Utah.
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