USA Rugby has backed away from PRO12 expansion plans.
USA Rugby chief Dan Payne has revealed that they are focused on their developing own PRO Rugby league, rather than a potential PRO12 expansion.
“There is currently a lot of interest in our country from abroad,” Dan Payne said in a statement.
“Although we commit to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to reviewing opportunities to build awareness and participation in our country, it’s important that we reiterate the support we have toward PRO Rugby North America after successfully completing their first season.
“Any outside competition would have to align within the strategy and plan we are developing that is focused on growing the game within our borders.”
Speaking to the Guardian, PRO Rugby owner Doug Schoninger said:
“The most important thing is the development of rugby in America. Anything that helps is welcome, and anything that does not is not.”
In its first season, which ran from April to July, five teams competed PRO Rugby and featured a majority of American players. The first champions were the Denver Stampede. Plans for 2017 include possible expansion to Canada, Chicago and the east coast, potentially in or around Boston and New York.
Reports on Pro 12’s ambitions for North America have indicated Houston and Vancouver as potential locations for teams.
In his statement, Payne said:
“We recognise the significant contribution that PRO has given rugby in the USA and we are 100 per cent committed to working together to support the leagues continued growth.
“This includes the manner in which we would evaluate if and how any outside competition interested in entering our country might impact those efforts. Any future international expansion would be strategically co-ordinated within our overall plan and also benefit our partners by growing awareness, rising the overall tide, etc, or it wouldn’t make sense.”
“We also have to extend our appreciation to all of the coaches, players, staff and fans that made year one a reality. PRO was able to achieve something that was never achieved before. This should be recognised and applauded.
“I’m looking forward to seeing where season two stacks up, thanks to the valuable experience the competition gained in season one.” [Irish Times]