RUGBY has hit the United States for the first of its four American super-size slams.
Saracens take on Newcastle Falcons at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia on Saturday – kicking off at 10pm BST.
Whilst the crowd might not be much to write home about the game is taking a step in the right direction by attempting to tap into the land of the free.
The NFL, the padded, beefed-up version of egg-chasing, is never going to be in trouble this side of the pond when it comes to the Premiership heading to the east coast.
But what it does show is an ambition from the suits in and around Twickenham to try and tap into this sports-mad market.
It will be only the second Premiership match to be played in the USA. Saracens were involved in the first, beating London Irish in New Jersey in March 2016.
Sarries have conquered Europe twice in the last two seasons – but stars such as Maro Itoje and his team-mates are still relative nobodies in America.
SunSport are out in Philadelphia and have spoken to the movers and shakers who have been influential in staging the first match of a four-year deal here.
Maro Itoje – Lions, England and Saracens star
There are a number of reasons behind us coming to America. Obviously the main one is to grow the game globally. America is the largest economy in the world so from a financial point of view it makes sense for the powers that be to get on this market.
I’ve noticed that people in Philadelphia are sports crazy. This is not their natural sport. From talking to people in Philadelphia, you notice that they’re very interested and very receptive of rugby. They all think we’re crazy because we don’t have pads, but I tell them we’ll be okay. It’s the first time I’ve played rugby in America so it’s a new experience for me. It’s all good.
Rugby’s growing and it’s been growing at an exponential rate since it turned professional. In terms of the power, the pace, the skill but also in terms of the team behind the team.
The corporate team behind the organisations. As time goes by, rugby will naturally grow to become a bigger sport globally.
Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin: What time does the fight start, what TV channel is it on?
“It’s on! I want it, he wants it”
UFC fighter Jimi Manuwa confirms he will take on boxer David Haye early next year
Birmingham part ways with Harry Redknapp with Blues picking up just four points from opening eight games
Floyd Mayweather buys £19m LA mansion with cinema and marble pool patio with his Conor McGregor cash
BILLY THE KID
Billy Joe Saunders vs Willie Monroe Jr: When does it start, live stream and TV channel details
TOTTENHAM 0 Swansea 0
Spurs held to draw by stubborn Swans as hold firm at Wembley to earn hard-fought point
LIVERPOOL 1 BURNLEY 1
Mohamed Salah earns Reds a point after he cancels out Scott Arfield’s opener at Anfield
LA LIGA LIVE
Ex-Spurs flop Paulinho scores to put Barcelona 2-1 against Getafe after Ousmane Dembele limps off
Romelu Lukaku arrives at training in a £240k Rolls-Royce after another United star in a £24k VW Passat estate
N’castle 2 Stoke 1
Jamaal Lascelles heads Toon winner for second game in a row as Magpies continue surge up the Prem
Watford 0 Man City 6
Sergio Aguero hat-trick sends Pep Guardiola’s rocket men top of the league in front of watching Elton John
Marquinhos reveals his PSG team-mate Neymar is struggling to get to grips with French language
New York-born Alex Corbisiero – ex Lions, England and Northampton Saints prop turned NBC Sports pundit
It’s going to be a hell of a game. This game is show-case of Premiership rugby and the league’s commitment to playing here and the community out-reach and coaching.
It’s huge – even from Chris Wyles throwing the first pitch at a Phillies baseball game – it gets eyes on the spot and gets it moving in the right direction.
Is it about to rule over and turn into a giant and explode? No. But is it moving in the right direction? Yes. I’m excited to see where this goes and you want to see more American players in the Premiership and the leagues here grow.
Premiership Rugby boss Mark McCafferty
If you look at the kind of things that we’re doing, compared to football or cricket or other sports, it’s pretty innovative stuff and I think that’s a great credit to the game and the people running the game.
We’ve got to try and get it right, but we’re certainly in expansive mode.
Dave Walder, Newcastle Falcons head coach
We have chatted about the timing of this game and it’s a boost to our squad and brings us closer together. It’s almost like an old-fashioned tour and we’re seeing a new city and country.
The facilities have been amazing – unbelievable. We’ve spoken to some NFL players and our physios have been to see the Philadelphia 76ers and been to the baseball too.
Dan Lyle, former Bath Leicester and USA back-row now working for American agents AEG
AEG saw rugby as an inflection point where it could grow and asked me to come in to help.
We went and talked to the Premiership and said we were interested in helping them in their own back yard and we would also like them to come to the US and help us build a season of rugby.
For 30 years you had to go to a bar to watch rugby, it had never been a consumable product here. We didn’t want to create just a one-off game.
Me and Dan Payne had an agreement to collaborate to grow the game – we are multiple markets here and took all of it and put it in the cake batter and created the American Series.
The average American person couldn’t pick anyone out of the line-ups, but we are selling the city too and Philadelphia is a great hub to Washington DC, New York and Boston.
We want to put ambition out there, but we don’t want to be more things than we are too quick. The American Series is aspitaritonal for us, but we also know it is a build.
Dan Payne, CEO of USA rugby and former player
The game will help sell the game of rugby with these players, regardless if you know much about the sport.
We don’t compete with the NFL. We push our game and I think here you don’t look at the NFL you compete with. We like to take all the things the NFL and sports entertainment does here and combine those with the game we know that is phenomenal.
We don’t speak about one versus the other. Sport across our country and the world are becoming very cognisant about head traumas and the dangers associated there.
We can say that from the beginning of time the laws of rugby were written about player welfare and every years there are laws to make the game safer.
At first blush people in America think because you don’t have pads it’s dangerous. . . but actually it’s much safer because of the way you tackle.
BT Sport is where the best in sport go to head-to-head. Watch Newcastle Falcons v Saracens live from Philadelphia on Saturday 16th September on BT Sport 3 from 9pm. For more info go to bt.com/sport