Hooker Schalk Brits believes there is much more to the Aviva Premiership Rugby contest between Saracens and Newcastle Falcons in Philadelphia than just the match itself.
The two-time reigning European champions will be the ‘away’ team when they meet the Falcons on September 16 at the 18,500 capacity Talen Energy Stadium.
The ground is usually the home of MLS side Philadelphia Union but, for one week only, will play host to Aviva Premiership Rugby – only the second regular season game ever to be played abroad.
And Brits insists that playing fixtures outside the UK is an important way to grow the game of rugby in new markets and for new fans.
“It’s very exciting, it’s growing the game we love and we think there’s great potential for the game to grow and develop,” he said.
“All the teams enjoyed New York and I think they will enjoy Philadelphia even more.
“It’s not just the game, the whole week will be fantastic. You’ll get to meet new people, train on different grounds and grow the game in the community. It’s more than one match.
“As players, we want to play in different places but also we have a responsibility to grow the game of rugby and grow the Aviva Premiership Rugby.”
The match in Pennsylvania is part of a new four-year agreement with AEG – the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company – in conjunction with NBC Sports.
It means that rather than doing the five-hour coach drive from Allianz Park to Kingston Park, Brits and his Saracens teammates will be boarding a flight across the pond to America’s east coast.
But the former South African international does not see the flight as a hindrance and has positive past experiences of the sporting city of Philadelphia.
“I don’t see it as flying that far, it’s a few hours across but in Super Rugby you would do that quite often in a season, in England everything is quite close,” he added.
“We are used to travelling and playing in different places and we are looking forward to this opportunity.
“I love being away to play rugby and Philadelphia, I have only been there for ten days for a knee rehab, but it was an amazing place. I had the Philly Steak sandwich which was great.
“What better place to take it to than Philadelphia, two great sides are going to enjoy playing rugby there and it will be a great showcase.”
The match is sanctioned by the United States Rugby Union and USA Rugby’s Chief Executive Dan Payne is looking forward to seeing Premiership Rugby in Philadelphia.
“This match-up is yet another opportunity for our American rugby fans and future fans to witness, first hand, up close and personal, the product created by some of the world’s top professional teams,” said Payne recently.
“We’re thankful to the Premiership Rugby, Saracens, Newcastle Falcons and our partners, AEG and NBC Sports, for providing this opportunity to the American public.
“I’m looking forward to a tremendous display of our great game that will fuel our growth plan domestically…a plan for growth in participation, overall awareness, national broadcast & commercially. This event ticks each of those very important boxes!”