Being the first to do something is challenging in any field. From getting familiar with new surroundings to dealing with doubters, it never really gets easier until time passes. Some thrive with increased pressure. Others don’t even want to take the risk. Old Glory DC is part of the first group, boldly venturing into a profession no sports team has gone before, producing DC’s first professional rugby team in Major League Rugby.
Old Glory DC will play their first home game this Sunday, February 16 at Catholic University against the Seattle Seawolves. It will be one of eight home games they play at Catholic (their home field) between now and May 31.
“Professional rugby is here in Washington, DC,” co-owner Chris Dunlavey opened with at the team’s media day on February 13, “and it’s here to stay.”
Dunlavey founded the team alongside DC rugby legend and former US National Team member Paul Sheehy in 2018. Two years later, their dream is finally coming to fruition as part of the MLR, a 12-team group that’s considered the top level of rugby competition in the United States.
No one is going to confuse rugby with basketball or the MLR with the NFL, but DC’s newest pro team will expose people to the sport who wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. Rugby, after all, is foreign to so many in the United States. Go and ask 10 people how you even score in a rugby game (or match?) and you’ll be lucky to get one or two correct answers. That’s where a pro team can be so valuable. Just by watching one game here or there you’ll learn the basics, maybe fall in love. Without a real team, you don’t even have the chance.
“One of the words used continuously throughout a rugby game is bind. And that’s what we want to see,” Sheehy emphatically told a jam-packed room at the St. Gregory Hotel in Dupont Circle. “Rugby is a game that binds us together. We have a lot of international players and an international community. It’s a co-ed sport and a youth sport, and I think we need that now more than ever – something that binds us together.”
“We want to see rugby flourish,” Dunlavey added.
While rugby is foreign to many, there was a palpable buzz surrounding Old Glory’s media day. In particular, everyone wanted a piece of their biggest star, Tendai Mtawarira, who had just touched down in the DMV from South Africa. Nicknamed “The Beast,” Tendai helped South Africa to a gold medal at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and was featured in recent public campaigns by the NBA and Dove Men’s Care.
“The reality is that I want to make an impact,” Mtawarira said. “I want to grow the game globally. So for me to be a mentor to the young guys in America, to teach them how to play at the highest level, it’s something that I really cherish.”
“I just want to give more than I take,” he added.
Being in DC also played a role in bringing Mtawarira to Old Glory. He noted that the NBA was his “second love” so going to Wizards’ games are definitely in his future, as well as some of the city’s museums.
“I hear they’re free,” he said with a laugh.
Moving forward, the star plans on being with his team for their home opener. The matchup versus Seattle will air locally on NBC Sports Washington at 3 p.m., one of eight games that the local sports network will carry. Other games will broadcast on CBS Sports Network, with WTEM ESPN 980 serving as the official radio home for Old Glory. For more information about Old Glory Rugby, visit here.
Catholic University Cardinal Stadium: Varnum St. NE, DC; 888-841-2787; www.oldglorydc.com