SD Legion hoping to garner support from community in inaugural rugby season


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SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Legion, the city's new major league rugby team, kicks off its season one week from Saturday -- and with local and international players, the team hopes to garner support and grow the sport.

Cathedral Catholic graduate and SDSU alum Gil Covey grew up in City Heights and now plays professional rugby for the San Diego Legion.

"I think growing up in the United States, like the ultimate goal is to play on the national team," said Covey, who plays hooker position. "But now to have this professional environment, I think it just helps the sport massively in the United States."

The Legion are one of seven teams in Major League Rugby, a league designed with Major League Soccer as it's model.

"From what I've seen so far, it's an exciting time to be involved in rugby in America and the opportunity this is going to give to American kids growing up," said Chris Cracknell, the forwards and breakdowns coach.

Other than passing the ball backwards in order to move forward on the playing field, rugby  looks very similar to football. But players say it comes with less risk for injury.

"As opposed to football, when you kind of fly in there with the helmet, we put a lot of training into technique," said Mungo Mason, who plays the openside flanker position.

"Where to put your head, how to fall, how to wrap your arms, that sort of thing so that there's less concussions."

The Legion play their 80-minute home matches at USD's Torero Stadium. The regular season consists of eight matches - four home and four away, which ultimately lead into a four-team playoff by July.

"It's an action-packed, high-octane sport and there's a lot of collisions, a lot of tries," said Cracknell.

"It's going to be a high-paced, fast style of rugby that we think fans can get behind and that's what we're after," said Mason.

Five local colleges have rugby club squads, and at the youth level, the sport continues to grow, which is why the Legion are optimistic Major League Rugby will catch on.

"It's a Varisty sport in a lot of campuses now and I think ... Southern California in general is really, really strong and Northern California is really strong and I think having this MLR is only going to boost that even more,"said Covey.

"We understand that there's a little bit of a gap I suppose in the fan zone with the Chargers leaving and so we think we can really fill that hole and we'd love to see as many people out there as possible," said Mason.

The Legion host their home opener on April 29th against the Utah Warriors.

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