There are many countries around the world that Paul Holmes and James Walker could have picked to launch Tiger Rugby and build the Tiger Rugby Academy, but they chose the United States. Their decision was not based on what US rugby may look like someday. They chose the US because they saw the opportunity to win now.
“We wouldn't be here, we wouldn't be doing Tiger Rugby if we didn't think the US can literally be competing at the very highest level in the game,” said Paul Holmes, “For us to go out there and actually start up a company for rugby development and to be based in the US, as two entrepreneur businessmen, we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think this was a place for rugby and that America has the ability to be the best.
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Based out of Columbus, Ohio, Tiger Rugby has made it their mission to bring in and develop players that have been and have the potential to be USA Eagles. Players such as Matt Hawkins, Riaan Hamilton, Mike Te'o, Pete Dahl, Zach Pangelinan, Taylor Howden and the Malifa brothers have player under the Tiger Rugby banner around the world.
Now Holmes and Walker are expanding their facilities to include on-site housing, expansive indoor fields and a full gym while working to create complete rugby players.
“We obviously want to develop the game, not just in the elite player, but kind of starting with the youth. But then, obviously, give the elite players or the players that have a huge upside a huge avenue, or a good avenue, whereby they can better their skills on the rugby pitch, but also their physicality, getting into the gym and their rugby IQ side to basically give them a place where they can pretty much live the game of rugby each day,” said Holmes.
Like many teams around the country, competition will begin when Tiger Rugby heads to the Las Vegas Invitational with multiple competitive sides.
“We kick our year off in Vegas, where we are for the first time ever, having our Tiger Cubs team, which is pretty much a team that isn't, by no means, a second team but it's a team dedicated to younger players.”
And with rugby’s impending return to the Olympic in 2016, Holmes believes that it’s time for the US to realize just what a great rugby country this is.
“The US sevens scene, the club scene, is probably stronger than any scene in the world. Very few countries out there have the amount of sevens and the amount of leagues that necessarily are available to play in,” said Holmes. ”We're a top 12 country and there are a lot of countries that play rugby. It is the second largest sport in the world. We have to understand that we do compete as it is.”
Along with the growth of the club scene in the United States, Tiger Rugby has been able to capitalize on the sport’s rapid expansion throughout the world. The team has been a mainstay of the Kenyan Safari Sevens Tournament and has even bigger aspirations for the future.
This year we have committed to it. We're going down to Australia and we've had invites to go to Ireland and Kenya again, which we are seriously considering,” said Holmes. “In order for any program to get better, you've actually got to go play the toughest teams around the world that we can have access to. So obviously, any time we have the opportunity to play against the likes of Spain or go to Kenya and play against Samoa and the African Champions, we're obviously going to take those opportunities.”