Wales will play South Africa in USA ahead of their Argentina tour

USA are stepping up their International Rugby experience against Wales and South Africa on Saturday, 2 June 2018 at Washington’s Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

“This is an exciting fixture for the WRU and for the national squad,” Welsh Rugby Union Group CEO, Martyn Phillips said.

Wales (No7 in the World Rugby rankings) and South Africa (6) last met in Cardiff in December, Wales winning 24-22. South Africa last played in the US in 2001, beating the US Eagles 43-20 in Houston. Wales were last in the country in 2009, beating the Americans 48-15 in Chicago.

“The game will be great for rugby in the States,” Jones said. “There is a real thirst for rugby here now.”

Washington has also been a rumoured home for a proposed Pro14 franchise, in one of a number of attempts to establish professional rugby union in the US. Major League Rugby, a domestic attempt to replicate the growth and success of Major League Soccer, will kick off in seven mostly western cities in April. New York confirmed entry for 2019 this month while the former England coach Mike Ford is part of ongoing preparations in Dallas.

According to USA Rugby figures, Washington is home to 94 rugby union clubs and school or college programs, making it the No2 US rugby market behind New York City. Reports of Pro14 interest in DC have focused on Audi Field, the new 20,000-capacity home of DC United which is due to open in July close to Nationals Park, the home of the city’s baseball team, in the redeveloping waterfront district. The storied but somewhat ailing RFK has a capacity of more than 45,000, which DC United struggled to fill.

Crowds for pro rugby in the US have been mixed. The USA and Ireland attracted 61,000 sell-outs to Soldier Field in Chicago for games against the All Blacks in 2014 and 2016, but only 23,112 watched the Eagles lose to the Wallabies there in 2015.

The USA has done well for games against the Maori All Blacks at Chicago and Philadelphia’s MLS venues. Recently, though, Aviva Premiership games in soccer stadiums in New Jersey (14,811) and Pennsylvania (6,271) struggled to find big audiences.

Jones said outreach work would be done by the Welsh government’s office in Washington and the South African embassy, in part focusing on Welsh-American communities. According to the US Census Bureau, 1.8m Americans claim Welsh ancestry. The nearest concentration of Welsh culture to DC is to be found in Pennsylvania.

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