U.S. national rugby team a popular draw at Dell Diamond


Highlights

Large crowd expected Saturday to see Brazil, samba dancers.

Spike Davis, Ben Cima part of young American roster for tournament.

Always on the prowl to bring something new to Dell Diamond, the Express ownership group lined up an international rugby match between the United States and Canada last February.

When it drew 7,145 paying customers, Ryan Sanders Baseball and the U.S. rugby federation were interested in an encore. So Saturday night, the Eagles, as the USA team is known, will play Brazil as part of the American Rugby Championships.

“We’re almost exactly even with last year in pre-sales. People are embracing it,” Ryan Sanders Executive Vice President J.J. Gottsch said Friday. “The weather forecast is perfect, and Central Texas has a large Brazilian contingent, so we’re looking good.”

As a bonus, samba dancers will be on hand working their routines for the upcoming 40th anniversary celebration of Carnaval Brasileiro in Austin.

The rugby should be pretty good, too. Team USA, ranked 17th in the world, kicked off the five-week Americas tournament with a 29-23 win over Uruguay last Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s even some Texas flavor as Saturday will mark the starting debut of Spike Davis, a former SMU defensive lineman who plays wing for the Eagles. He was on the roster for last February’s match at Dell but didn’t play. After leading Pro Rugby North America in tries (think “touchdowns”), he’s getting his shot for the national team.

“Last year was a great atmosphere here,” the 26-year-old Dallas resident said. “It’s a baseball stadium, definitely different, but it was loud. I feel like Austin is kind of a hot spot for rugby.”

The U.S. roster trends young, like 20-year-old fly half Ben Cima, who executed a brilliant 55-yard kick at Dell last February to beat Canada in the under-20s match.

“We wanted to go out and celebrate, but we played after the Eagles match, and it was 1 in morning when we got back to the hotel, so we went to Jack in the Box,” Cima said. “Hopefully, we can get some barbecue this time.”

Cima, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where rugby is No. 2 only to soccer, moved to Washington, D.C., when he was young. His dad, a longtime rugby player, was a diplomat. Unlike most Americans, Cima has been playing the sport most of his life and was a high school All-American at D.C.’s Gonzaga High.

“My position is kind of like a quarterback,” he explained. “I call most of the plays, direct the attack, make the snap judgments. I’m not a big, strong ball carrier; I’m a methodical decision-maker. I have to be a little bit savvy to avoid those big guys.”

Coach John Mitchell, a South Africa native, said this tournament is an important tuneup for World Cup qualifying, which will begin this summer.

“We’re playing a lot of different people, giving everyone a chance, because this is the critical time for them to make an impression,” he said. “We want to win the tournament, but most of all we’re looking for players who connect as one with the national team.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks: Ranking the best available
2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks: Ranking the best available

The 2018 NFL Draft is upon us, and quarterbacks are still the topic of the draft, for better or for worse. Below is a list of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Rosen probably isn’t going No. 1 because the Browns don’t seem interested in him, but he has the highest floor of anyone on this list. Rosen was surrounded by an awful...
Who is Denzel Ward? 5 things to know about Ohio State’s CB in 2018 NFL Draft
Who is Denzel Ward? 5 things to know about Ohio State’s CB in 2018 NFL Draft

Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward enters the 2018 NFL Draft after three solid seasons in Columbus. In his 3 seasons with the Buckeyes, Ward recorded 67 total tackles, 47 of which were solo, and made 2 interceptions in 26 games. Ward goes into the NFL Draft rated one of the top cornerbacks in the class. He will look to join Ryan Shazier...
2018 NFL Draft: 5 things to know about Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison
2018 NFL Draft: 5 things to know about Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although primarily known for his hard hits, Ronnie Harrison was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2017 and ended up tried for the Alabama lead in tackles with 74. He also tallied added 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass breakups and three interceptions. Considered one of the best safeties available...
Who is Frank Ragnow? 5 things to know about the Arkansas center
Who is Frank Ragnow? 5 things to know about the Arkansas center

The  2018 NFL Draft is set to begin on Thursday night in Arlington, Texas. That evening will introduce just the first-round selections, and Arkansas center Frank Ragnow is becoming increasingly likely to be among them. Ragnow is a 6-foot-5, 312-pound Minnesota native. He was a three-year starter for the Razorbacks...
2018 NFL Draft: 5 things to know about South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst
2018 NFL Draft: 5 things to know about South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst

The 2018 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday night, and it will be held in Arlington, Texas. Experts predict that South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst will be an early pick in the draft. Hurst was a key part of South Carolina’s 2017 team, as he helped lead the Gamecocks’ offense. Below are the five things you ...
More Stories