Team USA prepares for rugby showdown with Samoa national team
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A handful of former Warriors will be seeing a familiar sight this weekend when thousands of fans pack Aloha Stadium.
However, the sport they'll be playing is something most in Hawaii have never seen on a grand stage.
Jayson Rego and Kelly McGill are a couple of guys with local ties in town this week playing in a rugby match between the USA Tomahawks, America's national team and the Samoa national team.
It's not just a pick-up game as both squads rank in the top 20 of the international standings.
"The whole world is going to be watching," said McGill, who starts for Team USA. "There's no other matches going on at this time and both teams are heading into the World Cup. It's huge for the sport because now we're into America, into Hawaii."
It's the second straight year Team USA is playing in the islands. Last year, it lost to Tonga in a match at Kaiser Stadium.
McGill is one of the organizers of the event and is expecting at least 10,000 fans this Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
He says the expected turnout is a testament to the sports growing popularity in the state.
"The football player coming out of college is the best athlete," McGill said. "That's who we're trying to identify with right now in the states and Hawaii itself is a hotbed. We've been playing rugby here a long time."
The match is also a homecoming for much of Team USA as eight of its players have Hawaii ties. Both Rego and McGill suited up for the University of Hawaii only years ago.
"It's very special," said Rego, who played running back for UH and the Kamehameha Warriors. "For the Hawaii guys that are on the team, we get to play in front of family and everyone gets to see you, when, normally, they wouldn't because you don't play out here too much."