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Chicago Hounds hoping to help make rugby the next big pro sport

Chicago Hounds hope to make rugby next big pro sport
Chicago Hounds hope to make rugby next big pro sport 03:22

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (CBS) -- Chicago now has a professional rugby team playing their home games in Bridgeview.

CBS 2's Matt Zahn explains how the Hounds are building the foundation for what they're hoping is a bright future.

The team was assembled a bit hastily after joining Major League Rugby this offseason. That's presented some challenges as you'd expect, but they are certainly enjoying the ride in year one, and looking forward to what's ahead as well.

There's a new team in town, the Chicago Hounds, with a group of players passionate about the sport of rugby.

"This is a dream job really. We get to come here, hang out with your mates, and play rugby every day. Can't ask for much better," said Hounds player Charles Abel.

Abel is one of the guys who loves the hitting in rugby.

"There's plenty of good hits, and there's plenty of guys in this league that hit very hard. So it's good fun," he said.

Others love the freedom and unscripted nature of the sport.

"In football, it's very scripted, so you're listening to the coaches, you're running the plays that they want you to run, and I think in rugby it's all off script. So whatever I want to do, I can do it, and I just read and react," Hounds player Chris Mattina said.

The founders of the Hounds had to go a little off script to get this team off the ground, something that happened rather quickly starting late last fall.

"We were contacted by the league around October/November time. We bought into the league as a group, and we started recruiting off the bat. So we had about 6 weeks to get our team of 36 guys from America and around the world; a coaching staff and a front office staff," said Hounds general manager & CEO James English.

As you might expect, that presented some challenges for a team in its first year as one of now 12 teams in Major League Rugby, but it's also given them a bit of an opportunity as well.

"Probably the biggest challenge for us this year is we got together so late. So a lot of lads having issues getting here early enough in the season, but it's also part of the fun of it," Abel said.

"However long the timeline, you're under pressure with something like this. So why not be under pressure for six weeks and get it done? But we're really happy where we are. We've laid some great foundations this year, and we're excited to see where we can take the Hounds in Chicago in the future," English said.

The Hounds might be new to Chicago, but they are already have a pretty solid core of fans, many of whom are pretty hardcore when it comes to following their favorite rugby team at SeatGeek Stadium.

"They get pretty rowdy at times, but like that, and we tend to kind of encourage it. I mean, we have a big group called 'The Strays,' and 'The Kennel Club,' and other different kinds of tribal groups that have really gotten behind us," English said.

"There's some really hardcore fans, man. I was gonna say, like San Diego, we played there, and their fans are pretty quiet compared to our fans. We probably had a little bit less than they did, but they're way louder," Mattina said.

"The fans are real good. I like seeing the fans tailgate. That's a bit of an interesting thing," Abel said.

No tailgating in Australia?

"No, unfortunately not," Abel said.

Is that something he can bring back with him if he goes back to Australia?

"I hope we bring it back. It's lovely watching it. You come into a game, and you see everyone having a feed, and having some drinks. It's lovely," he said.

And the Hounds hope more Chicago sports fans are hungry for some rugby.

The Hounds will be the hosts for the Major League Rugby Championship game at SeatGeek Stadium on July 8. The festivities will even include a pregame concert from DJ Diesel, aka Shaquille O'Neal.

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