The Arizona Bobcats

The Arizona Bobcats Rugby girls’ team will participate in a match-up against an all-star team from Nike San Diego Saturday, May 11, at Pioneer Park. (Submitted photo)

In an effort to build up the reputation of the sport, the new Arizona Bobcats Rugby will host a match-up against the Nike national team from San Diego on Saturday, May 11, at Pioneer Park.

Rugby is a team sport that delivers significant social and health benefits to which Gregor said his team is focused on bringing awareness in the state. The sport is physically demanding, so he said players should be physically and mentally prepared and understand safe play.

“Nike Rugby Camps in San Diego offer camps for boys and girls as well as our new partnership with the Major League Rugby Legion (MLR),” Bobcats coach Ian Gregor said.

“We have been expanding now into under 16s and having an open division and elite division team. This will help us expand the development for the players. We’re trying to build depth. It breeds success for a longer plan down the road.”

The sport is quickly growing in the United States, as Major League Rugby — started in 2017 — currently has nine teams from California; Washington; Utah; Colorado; Texas; Louisiana; Georgia; Washington, D.C.; Maine and Canada. Gregor said the match-up will assist the sport in Arizona for the future.

“Currently, our men’s and women’s National 7s teams are ranked in the top four of the world, and in position to receive automatic bids to the 2020 Olympic Games,” Gregor said. “We also have a nine team (soon to be 12) professional league called Major League Rugby.”

Gregor said the match-up with the Nike team has been in the works for quite some time.

“We have been trying to set up this game with Nike since October,” Gregor said.

“For the Bobcats we are using the Nike match as a warm-up match for our varsity side as they prepare to compete in the Regional Cup Tournament in Denver, Colorado, in June 2019.”

A new academy, Arizona Bobcats Rugby focuses on identifying Arizona youth Rugby players between the ages of 13 and 18 who compete in tournaments across the United States. The academy is a member of the National High School 7s circuit at the under-18 level.

Coaches are involved in the state-based rugby union and work to identify players they feel would compete well at a higher level. Additionally, they offer clinics and identification camps throughout the year, as Gregor said they believe young players can be developed to compete nationally if given the time and attention.

“We really are focused on identifying Arizona youth fugby players from the ages of 13 to 18 to compete in tournaments across the United States,” Gregor said.

Gregor added that he hopes the match-up will entertain fans, as well as show that the sport is about more than just knocking people down.

“Most people unfamiliar with the sport believe it is just football without pads and played only by those lacking common sense,” Gregor said. “In reality, rugby is a physical sport, but with very specific laws rather than rules that help to ensure order and far fewer injuries than most would believe. It is second only to soccer world wide for number of registered athletes.”

The game is free to the public at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at Pioneer Park, 8755 N. 83rd Avenue.

Those interested in playing the sport can contact Gregor at arizonabobcatsrugby@gmail.com or visit bobcatsrugby.com.