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Opinion: Top 14 Loaning Players To MLR Is A Good Thing


News came out today on Twitter that as many as 30 players from the Top 14 League in France would join Major League Rugby squads on two year loan deals. This would be an expansion of the relationship that is building between MLR and LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby).

Many don't want MLR to gain the title of retirement league and those same people want the skills of US rugby players to grow. First, so far it hasn't become a retirement league. Second, the skills have been improving as the camp roster for the Eagles over the summer, was fully professional, and over half the roster coming from MLR.

The United States has been referred to as the Sleeping Giant when it comes to rugby. With the introduction of sevens to the Olympics and the success of the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, one could say the Giant is starting to wake up.

In order to fully realize our potential as a rugby playing nation, we need a successful professional league. If that takes bringing in overseas talent to get on the right track, so be it. The most recent attempt at professionalism was a disaster for rugby in the US. Rugby fans in the US need to be patient with MLR in order for the Eagles success to come.

We have already seen success for American rugby players with MLR. Eight US players who played in MLR last season signed overseas. If they succeed, it only shows that the MLR is a good thing. With those players going overseas, replacement players will need to be brought in. Overseas talent can help with that.

Bringing in overseas talent raises the competition bar. We want our homegrown talent to get better. What better way, than competing with top tier talent. Tier 1 rugby playing nations have a plethora of talent. If we can compete against those who aren't able to break into top level squads, it shows how far we can go as a rugby playing nation.

Midi Olympique, a french rugby magazine, put out the a short article about the arrangement. Dean Howes says in the article that MLR is partnering with LNR in order to gain from their experience. A viable league hasn't happened in the US and MLR wants to learn from the LNR. Any worries about finances are also mentioned. Howes says that LNR would be partially funding the contracts for the players coming over.*

Overseas talent can also help the game's growth internationally. Fans of wherever these players come from can keep up with the league and bring others into the fold to grow MLR's international reach. While American growth is the main priority, international growth should not be forgotten.

We all want MLR to succeed. In order to do that, MLR needs to show that it can remain competitive, grow as a league, and be stable. So far, it has shown it can. The US player pool is only so deep. Overseas talent can help ensure that MLR remains competitive and raise the bar for American rugby players.

With the addition of South American, as well as French rugby players to MLR, the competition should only get better. The league has put in place measures to ensure that American rugby player growth comes first and competition second. The addition of any overseas player is welcome, as it can only grow the game here in the US.

~Josh Fredlund (*rough translation of Dean Howes mine)