Paul Sheehy, a former US Eagles fullback who played in the 1991 Rugby World Cup, and Chris Dunlavey, a Washington Irish club player who presides over a construction firm, secured rights to the team in the US-based league that opened its inaugural season last month.
Sheehy had been named in possible Pro14 expansion to North America before two South African clubs joined the Europe-based series last year.
“I’m happy to be part of the team bringing professional rugby to Washington,” Sheehy said. “This is going to be an exciting time in the nation’s capital, the second-largest rugby market in the United States. Fans will love the game.”
MLR features seven clubs with a New York team set to begin play next year and the Washington squad possibly opening in 2019 and definitely taking the field by 2020 at a home venue to be determined.
“We’re extremely excited,” said Dunlavy, chairman of the DCMLR group. “Our experience, our network, our intuition and our market research all tell us the same thing – there’s a big appetite for rugby in the DC region.
“If professional rugby can work anywhere in the US, it can work in DC.”
The group hopes to boost interest in the new club when Wales and South Africa visit Washington’s RFK Stadium – the 57-year-old former home of NFL, soccer and baseball teams – for a June 2 match that has sold more than 12,000 tickets already.
“We expect the Wales-South Africa match will help us get the word out in the rugby and local community and start to generate momentum for MLR,” Dunlavey said.
A new MLR team inn Washington DC Washington DC team to enter Major League Rugby 'no later' than 2020 https://t.co/7DXYFCWwmV— Thierry daupin (@TDaupin) May 16, 2018
Having another Eastern US outpost is important to MLR commissioner Dean Howes, whose league is primarily in western cities, none east of New Orleans.
“We think Washington DC will be an exciting and growing market for us,” Howes said. “With New York already committed and now DC coming on board, we can envision a robust rivalry blossoming between those two clubs.”
Leigh Halfpenny will miss the Scarlets’ Guinness PRO14 semi-final clash against Glasgow on Friday due to injury.
The goal-kicking Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back has been sidelined by a torn hamstring.
Halfpenny was instrumental in the Scarlets’ run to this season’s European Champions Cup semi-finals.
Head coach Wayne Pivac, though, says there is a chance that Halfpenny could be available for next week’s PRO14 final in Dublin if Glasgow are toppled.
Full-back and wing option Johnny McNicholl is available for selection after overcoming a shoulder injury.
“Leigh has a small tear there, so with any luck, should we get through the semi-final, then he may be available for the final,” Pivac told BBC Sport.
“Johnny has been training really, really well for the last couple of weeks.
“The last obstacle for him was full contact, and he’s done that and come through, so he’s available for selection.”
Young died in the aftermath of suffering a head injury while playing at the Sharjah 10s last month. The Australian passed away in hospital on Sunday, April 29, two days after being hurt while playing for RAK’s vets side at the famous tournament.
The club announced his death on its Facebook page on the Sunday evening.
And, to demonstrate the close bond within the UAE rugby community, both Abu Dhabi clubs will play a friendly game next Thursday, May 24, under the lights at Sarries’ Al Ghazal ground, in the shadow of Abu Dhabi Airport.
The game between an Abu Dhabi Saracens Social XV and Abu Dhabi Harlequins Social XV kicks off at 19:30 and is free for all to attend.
The idea to organise the friendly derby game came fittingly from a man who has a foot in both camps, Richard Croft.
The Etihad employee moved over to play for Sarries in January, having previously played for, managed the men’s team and coached the juniors at Quins.
And Croft feels putting aside trophies and rivalries shows the depth of community felt between the two sides, as well as UAE rugby as a whole.
“We wanted to arrange it to show the depth of the game in the capital, honour Nick on behalf of UAE rugby and in general,” said Croft, 41.
“We wanted to put aside club rivalry and show support for Nick’s family from two of RAK’s friendly Community League rivals.”
RAK Rugby's thoughts and prayers are with Nick Young's friends and family today as he is laid to rest in Australia. RIP Nick. pic.twitter.com/SbSHlKMY5J— RAK Rugby (@RAKRugby) 10 May 2018
Sarries were West Asia champions in 2014/15 but have since fallen on hard times. The club was only established in 2011 but could have folded on the eve of last season when they lost their Ghazal home and barely had a team, with incessant pillaging of their players as they struggled on the field threatening their very future.
But despite a tumultuous 2017/18 on the field, they survived and things are looking brighter.
And Croft said that the club know that underneath all the hostility and competition, a strong familial bond between the region’s clubs bubbles beneath the surface of Emirates rugby.
“As Sarries we have felt the brunt of hard times this season and experienced firsthand how clubs like Quins, Bahrain, (Jebel Ali) Dragons and (Dubai) Hurricanes helped and supported us,” added Derbyshire native Croft, who has lived in the UAE for a decade.
“We know what it’s like to receive support and will always give back to the game 10-fold in return. Never more so than at a time like this.
“For us as a rugby community to lose a fellow player, whether we knew him or not, is devastating.
“Besides being a competitive and friendly rivalry Sarries and Quins stand together for this fun and social game in honour of Nick and the RAK Rugby club.
“We hope to honour that and invite all rugby supporters in the region to experience Sarries v Quins’ combined hospitality at Al Ghazal for the game.”
His words were echoed by Sarries coach Pete Henderson, who said: “The initiative came from Richard so the credit really belongs to him for organising this.
“Richard is a passionate supporter, player and new member of the Sarries family. He’s been around the UAE rugby scene for many years. Many of our players were at the 10’s tournament when this tragedy happened so we’re fully behind the initiative.”