President of D-FW’s new pro rugby team explains sport’s popularity, why Dallas is ready

Professional rugby will make its North Texas debut on Saturday with the Dallas Jackals’ first home game.

The game, against the Houston SaberCats, will mark the first-ever professional rugby match played in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Dallas was selected as a Major League Rugby expansion team in 2020, but its launch was delayed a year due to COVID-19. The league, which launched in 2018 with seven teams, has grown to 13 teams in the US and Canada.

Two other Texas cities, Austin and Houston, already field teams.

The Dallas Morning News chatted with Dallas Jackals President Scott Sonju about rugby, its enduring popularity and why it’s a good fit for North Texas.

DMN: Why bring professional rugby to North Texas?

sonju: Dallas-Fort Worth is a big market and a great sports market. We think both the US and Dallas are ripe for rugby, in part because the values ​​of the sport will resonate well here.

DMN: What are some of those values?

sonju: First of all, rugby does not permit arguing with the referee. Referees are always treated with respect and called “sir.” Then after each game, the team goes to dinner with members of the opposing team and referees. Folks appreciate the way rugby transcends rivalry, politics, religion.

Second, rugby is fast paced. Every player on the field, all 15 of them, have to be able to run, throw, catch and tackle. Everyone plays offense and defense. That’s why it is sometimes called the most complete team sport there is.

Dallas Jackals rugby players play a throw-in during practice at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington.(Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)

DMN: North Texas already has a rugby following, correct?

sonju: This region is already home to more than 20 youth, amateur and collegiate rugby clubs. The first — Dallas Rugby Football Club, or The Reds — was established in 1969. Two years later, the Dallas Harlequins was formed. So there is definitely a rich history of rugby here.

DMN: Where do the players come from?

sonju: Our players come from around the US and world. The roster even includes an Arlington chiropractor who pulled back from his practice to play professionally.

DMN: How does the team plan to grow the sport in North Texas?

sonju: Our long-term plan is to grow domestic talent. We’ll be working with PE programs at area schools to introduce kids to rugby at an earlier age.

A stack of Dallas Jackals rugby balls is pictured during practice at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington.
A stack of Dallas Jackals rugby balls is pictured during practice at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington.(Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)

DMN: What do you recommend for people who are interested in watching a match but know nothing about rugby?

sonju: We hope everyone will come out and see a game for themselves. Throughout each match, we’ll have short Rugby 101 sessions where we explain the rules and some of the common terms, like scrum, ruck and maul.

DMN: Will games be televised?

sonju: Six games will be shown on TXA 21, sister station to CBS 11, and three will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 2. Others will be shown on The Rugby Network. Check here for a complete schedule.

Here’s the Jackals’ remaining 2022 schedule, with home games in bold:

  • Feb. 19 vs. Houston Saber Cats
  • Feb. 26 vs. Rugby United New York
  • March 5 at Utah Warriors
  • March 12 vs. NOLA Gold
  • March 19 vs. Seattle Seawolves
  • March 3 at LA Giltinis
  • April 9 at Houston SaberCats
  • Apr 16 vs. Austin Gilgronis
  • April 23 at Old Glory DC
  • Apr 30 vs. San Diego Legion
  • May 8 at Seattle Seawolves
  • May 14 at Toronto Arrows
  • May 21 vs. LA Giltinis
  • June 4 vs. Utah Warriors

Tickets for home games are currently being sold and range from $20 to $59. Fans can also purchase walk-up tickets at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, formerly known as Globe Life Park and home of the Texas Rangers.

Dallas Jackals scrum-half Tom Brusati (left) pitches the ball after pulling it from the scrum during practice at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Monday, February 7, 2022. The Major League Rugby team are preparing for their first home game at the stadium February 19 against the Houston SaberCats.

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