Skip to main content

USA Rugby to host International Friendly in Utah

Sep 11, 2023 02:56PM ● By Daniel Olsen

Eagles USA Rugby player Christian Dyer. (Kayla McFarland of Utah Warriors)

Rugby is a popular sport in Utah and teams and players here have helped build up the sport in the United States. One player who has thrived in this environment is Paul Mullen.

“I’m from Ireland,” Mullen said. “It’s on a small island off the coast. When I went to high school on the mainland, the only sport they played was rugby. It was sink or swim. Fortunately, I was able to excel.”

Utah’s Major League Rugby team, the Utah Warriors, is hosting an attempt at the Guinness World Record for the largest rugby scrum, and proceeds from the event will benefit 5 for the Fight and Make-A-Wish Utah. With fan and player participation, the challenge will take place immediately following the upcoming international rugby spectacle featuring the USA Eagles and France’s Stade Toulousain on Sept. 16. 

“We have a partnership with Stade Toulousain,” Utah Warriors CEO Kimball Kjar said. “They are arguably the Real Madrid of rugby. They won the most recent French championship. They are the most successful rugby club in the world. One goal of the partnership is to grow the sport of rugby but specifically within North America to help their brand grow. We also want the Utah Warriors brand to grow internationally and throughout Europe. We want to create events that showcase the sport of rugby.”

The thrilling matchup will be held at America First Field in Sandy with gates opening at 3 p.m. and game kickoff at 7 p.m. The pursuit for the world record begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to participate in the scrum, along with a commemorative T-shirt, cost $10 and can be purchased as an add-on at checkout when purchasing match tickets here.  

“American football fans like big hits,” Mullen said. “Rugby is the same but doesn’t go on for four hours. It’s only 80 minutes.”

While Mullen didn’t grow up in the United States, he still is happy to be a part of the national rugby team.

“My grandfather grew up in the U.S.,” he said. “For me to represent America is a great honor.”

This momentous endeavor in rugby history serves to engage the community and rugby fans from around the world and raise funds for the Utah Warriors’ local nonprofit partners. Fans who have upgraded their match ticket at the cost of $10 are invited to come down onto America First Field after the game, where over 3,000 people will lock arms to break the record of 2,586 participants set in 2018 in Aichi, Japan. 

“This will be the biggest scrum in the world,” Mullen said. “It should be a friendly scrum. It is like a huge huddle. That would be cool if it was broken.”

“The long-term goal is to make Utah the epicenter of rugby for North America,” Kjar said. “We also want to be growing on a global scale. Utah has a love affair with the sport of rugby. Rugby playing countries led to the University of Utah playing rugby on their campus and eventually American football.  Rugby was being played in the mid-20th century. BYU has won five national championships. Utah won a national championship too, in about 2010. Highland High School was successful and won over 20 national championships. We have one of the largest Polynesian communities outside of Polynesia. The guys that are in the NFL out of Utah all played rugby. Rugby is a part of Utah’s DNA. We are trying with the Warriors to help people understand the energy that is played in this sport. We can help re-awaken the energy of the sport.”

This event should be an educational opportunity for those involved.

“Anyone who hasn’t come to a game of rugby should come. It’s a perfect opportunity to watch the best players in our backyard. We make it very easy for people to come out and enjoy the sport and game. Educational things. Gives people a view of what the sport looks like. People love it carries the day,” Kjar said. 

“The Rugby World Cup is the biggest event,” Mullen said. “But we are playing against incredible world class athletes. They are one of the best clubs in the world.”

While this event will take place during the middle of the Rugby World Cup, there will still be plenty of talented athletes who will line up against each other. The Rugby World Cup will take place from Sept. 8-Oct. 28.

The tickets are much cheaper than basketball, football, and soccer,” Mullen said. “It will be hard hitting with lots of scores and tackles. It should be an exciting time.”

While not every player from these teams will be in attendance, it will still be a world class matchup.

“We will have six to seven Utah Warriors playing as well as many of the best players from Toulouse,” Kjar said. “These are some of the best players in the world.”λ