By Brian Lowe,
In a major coup, the newly established California Rugby League (CRL) has announced that USA Hawks head coach Sean Rutgerson has agreed to coach the San Francisco side in the CRL’s inaugural game later this year.
The San Francisco Savage will face off against the Los Angeles Mongrel in the CRL’s debut exhibition game on December 7, 2019 in the Bay Area of northern California.
Rutgerson, who also coaches the Jacksonville Axemen in the USA Rugby League (USARL), says he is very pleased to be able to do his bit to help the new league get off the ground.
“I’m happy to help because we all want to see the sport develop,” he tells RugbyLeaguePlanet. “I’ll be keen to watch and check out the talent.”
Rutgerson says he’ll definitely be scouting the talent on both sides with a view to future USA teams, beyond the Rugby League Nines World Cup in October and the final 2021 Rugby League world Cup (RLWC) qualifier against the Cook Islands in November.
He believes it’s important for the future growth of the game in America that rugby league develops a competition on the west coast.
“I think it’s going to be really important,” he says. “They’ve got quite a few numbers there I’ve been told, and I think it’d be massively important to give those guys over there something to strive for to play for their national team.
“If that’s what it takes to give them some incentive to start up that comp then that’s what we’ve got to do.”
The CRL plans to utilise Rutgerson’s coaching talents while he’s on the left coast by having him run some youth training programs, as well as training sessions for the Savage in the lead up to the game, plus he’ll have input in selecting the San Francisco team.
California Rugby League spokesperson Tom Stevenson says having Rutgerson come on board is excellent for both California and the country.
“He has a proven track record in fast-tracking the transition of footballers and rugby athletes to rugby league players,” says Stevenson.
“This is great for the USA Hawks, because there are 100+ hungry guys looking for a shot and to have the head coach here as part of the action is priceless. If this country is going to be a force in the international game, it’s important that we tap into as many pockets of talent this great country has to offer.”
And in separate news, the CRL has also announced that a second game has now been scheduled for the league’s debut weekend. As a curtain-raiser, Oakland will play Santa Rosa for the Coopers Cup.
“This game was added because of the sheer volume of talent who have put their hand up to play,” continues Stevenson. “It’s a great addition to the festivities of the day.
“We are in talks with USAFL club Golden Gate to take on a California women’s side in a game of touch football to start the day off.
“We have also got USARL head of match officials Cody Kuxmann coming out to hold a course to qualify the local officials for the 2020 season.”