Major League Rugby finally gets its start this weekend with six of the seven new pro teams in action—and it's about time.
The teams involved—Austin Elite, Glendale Raptors, Houston Sabercats, NOLA Gold, San Diego Legion, Seattle Seawolves, and Utah Warriors—are all paying their players based on somewhat different financial models. The league itself isn't dependent on one specific stream of income, which is why many observers are optimistic about its future.
The teams have also signed a string of prominent USA internationals, players from other countries, former PRO Rugby players, and recent college standouts to augment their rosters. The names are all pretty recognizable, which should pique fan interest.
No American rugby name, however, is more recognizable than Todd Clever. The former USA captain has been working with and for Austin Elite, assisting with player recruitment and mentorship.
Now, the team has announced that he's going to bring his boots, too.
Hit by injuries—not least of which was Eagles hooker Peter Malcolm's Achilles tendon tear—Austin Elite asked their team ambassador if he could also come play.
“I have really enjoyed the business side of rugby, and I thought my playing days were over, but I do have a rubber arm when it comes to playing,” Clever said in a team statement. “To be part of Major League Rugby as a player is really special.”
Austin head coach Alain Hyardet added: “I look forward to having Todd on the team. He comes with invaluable experience and will be a key contributor this season.”
Clever has officially begun training with the team and will immediately be available for selection.
“Todd Clever is the most recognized name and face in USA Rugby and Major League Rugby is excited to have a player of Todd’s caliber playing in the inaugural MLR season,” MLR League Commissioner Dean Howes said.
This Weekend's MLR Games:
All Times Local
SATURDAY, APRIL 21
2 PM — New Orleans Gold at Houston Sabercats (Dyer Stadium, Houston)
3 PM — Austin Elite at Glendale Raptors (Infinity Park, Glendale, CO)
SUNDAY, APRIL 22
5 PM — San Diego Legion at Seattle Seawolves (Starfire Sports Complex, Tukwila, WA)
(Utah hosts the Alberta Wolfpack at 7 PM local time on Friday, April 20, at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah.)