Pro rugby comes to Ohio, eager to build fan base in ‘the great unknown’

OBETZ, Ohio (WCMH) – “It’s the great unknown.”

That’s how head coach Paul Barford describes an attempt to bring professional rugby to the United States. It’s a modest attempt in year one of Pro Rugby, as just five teams will compete in the league. Columbus, specifically Obetz, will house one of those squads.

Pro Rugby Ohio is up and running with more than 30 players and a surprisingly strong infrastructure with veteran supporters from Ohio State’s rugby program lending a hand.

American fans will recognize specific elements of rugby, as American football was derived from rugby. Instead of touchdowns, there are tries. Players compete for possession of the ball in a scrum. Linemen carry the ball. It’s different and takes some studying, but American fans may find it fascinating.

Players on the Ohio team represent eight different nations, including a couple central Ohio natives.

Pro Rugby Ohio will play its home matches at Memorial Park in Obetz, with the home opener set for Sunday May 1.

The club opens play this Sunday at Denver. San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento are the other teams competing this season.

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