SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time since its inaugural 2018 season, the Utah Warriors Major League Rugby team is back in the playoffs.
After a 10-6 regular season, the Warriors will take on the Los Angeles Gilitinis at the Coliseum Sunday in the Western Conference Finals.
“Honestly, it’s awesome,” said Warriors captain Calvin Whiting. “We’ve earned every part of this championship run and I think the boys have come a long way since the beginning of the season. So to see it come to fruition is awesome.”
The Warriors split their two games against the Gilitinis this year. But with a victory Saturday, the Warriors would host the MLR Championship Game at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, where they have played very well this season.
“That would mean the world to us,” Whiting said. “That’s what we’ve looked forward to all season long. To play in front of your home crowd for a final, that would be a game-changer for us. But the Gilitinis, they’re an incredible team. They have a lot of superstars on their team.”
Since last season was canceled because of the pandemic, that makes this conference final game mean that much more.
“We’ve worked so hard the past year and a half to get here,” Whiting said. “We really want to get to that final game.”
With players from 11 countries ranging from the United States, to Canada, to South Africa, to Fiji, to Australia, to Tonga, to New Zealand, to Malaysia, to Samoa, to Ireland, to England, this truly is an international team.
“I honestly think that’s the best part about rugby,” Whiting said. “You can get so many guys from so many different areas of the world and come together to play the sport you all love. I think it’s really cool just to be able to rub shoulders with a lot of those guys, to learn from them and develop and grow with them.”
Currently with 12 teams, Major League Rugby hopes to keep growing in the coming years. These players don’t make a lot of money playing rugby, so they are truly playing this game because they love it.
“We understand that the work we put in now will essentially determine how successful the league is in the future,” Whiting said. “A lot of us aren’t doing it for the money, but for the love of the game. It’s growing. It’s still one of the fastest growing team sports in America, but Utah specifically. They’ve had such a good positive reaction to it, that I think they’re just going to run with it.”
The Warriors will play the L.A. Gilitinis Sunday at 4:00 p.m. MT with the winner moving on to the championship game on August 1st against either Atlanta or New York.