The Irish Rugby Football Union has partnered with incoming US Major League Rugby franchise, the New England Free Jacks, to create a series of development fixtures which will see the four provincial ‘A’ teams travel to Boston in March and April next year.
The New England Free Jacks are set to join US Major League Rugby from 2020 and will host development teams from Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster in Boston next spring. Each provincial squad will play two games in Boston – one against the hosts, the New England Free Jacks, and another against a fellow provincial side.
Connacht Eagles will be the first team to take on the Free Jacks on Saturday, March 16 and will then play Ulster ‘A’ on Wednesday, March 20 before returning to Galway. Ulster ‘A’ will then play the Free Jacks on Sunday, March 24 before returning to Belfast.
Munster ‘A’ will play the Free Jacks on Saturday, April 6 and then play Leinster ‘A’, the recently-crowned Celtic Cup champions, on Wednesday, April 10 in Boston ahead of their return home. Leinster ‘A’ will also line out against the Free Jacks on Sunday, April 14 in the round robin’s finale.
IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora commented: “We are delighted to be partnering with the New England Free Jacks for this development opportunity which follows on from the success of the Celtic Cup earlier in the season.
“Our provincial development sides will face the challenge of preparing for two competitive fixtures within an eight-day window while also having to manage recovery and operating in a new environment. The combination of these elements will further accelerate their progress as developing professionals.
“The New England Free Jacks are in an exciting phase of their development as they continue to build towards competing in Major League Rugby in 2020. This series of games provides valuable exposure for our emerging talent and one which we believe will be mutually beneficial to both Irish and US Rugby.”
DEVELOPMENT ROUND ROBIN FIXTURES:
Saturday, March 16:
New England Free Jacks v Connacht Eagles, Boston
Wednesday, March 20:
Connacht Eagles v Ulster ‘A’, Boston
Sunday, March 24:
New England Free Jacks v Ulster ‘A’, Boston
Saturday, April 6:
New England Free Jacks v Munster ‘A’, Boston
Wednesday, April 10:
Munster ‘A’ v Leinster ‘A’, Boston
Sunday, April 14:
New England Free Jacks v Leinster ‘A’, Boston