Jul 7, 2023 - Sports

Major League Rugby championship comes to Chicago

Photo of rugby players during a match

The Chicago Hounds in action versus Toronto. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Hounds

With Chicago's traditional professional sports franchises languishing in mediocrity, we've decided to embark on a summer series highlighting other professional leagues and events happening around town.

First up: Rugby.

Driving the news: On Saturday, Major League Rugby is holding its championship in Bridgeview at SeatGeek Stadium.

  • The match between the New England Free Jacks and the San Diego Legion will be punctuated with parties and concerts, featuring DJ Diesel (Shaquille O'Neal) and Dropkick Murphys.

Details: Rugby is played professionally all over the world, but in Chicago it's been mainly a club sport, although big exhibitions have come to Soldier Field.

  • As a rugby-playing friend told me, "It's a hooligan's sport played by gentlemen."

Objective: Not unlike football, players must move the ball across the opponents "try line" (goal line). Each time you make the try zone, it's 5 points.

  • You can carry, pass or kick the ball, but it must be pitched backward, not forward.

Signature play: When a player is tackled, they must give the ball to the other team. Before doing so, teammates create a "ruck" around the ball, creating a barrier that the other squad has to physically push through.

The intrigue: It's a violent sport. Similar to football, there are big hits and collisions, and the athletes rarely wear pads.

Local ties: In Major League Rugby, Chicago's squad is called the Hounds. This was the Hounds' inaugural season, and they went 3-13.

  • They play their home games at SeatGeek Stadium, and the season runs from February to June.

What they're saying: "Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the US," Chicago Hounds CEO James English tells Axios.

  • "Rugby isn’t for everyone, it’s for anyone."

The bottom line: Rugby is not new to Chicago. But the Hounds are, and they're bringing the club sport greater visibility.

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