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Women’s Rugby Super Series Preview

Women’s Rugby Super Series Preview

For the first time in three years, No. 1 New Zealand, No. 2 England, No. 3 Canada. No. 4 France and No. 5 USA all face-off in the 2019 Women’s Rugby Super Series hosted June 28 – July 14.  This massive event will bring 10 international test matches to a growing population of rugby fans in Southern California, with competition spanning five rounds and two venues in San Diego.

While the U.S. women’s soccer team pursues World Cup glory, another group of American athletes is preparing for its own quest for excellence on the world stage.

The occasion is Women’s Rugby Super Series 2019, which is coming to San Diego for a 17-day run from June 28-July 14.

The five-team field for the round-robin tournament will feature the five top teams in the world; top-ranked New Zealand followed by second-ranked England, number-three Canada, number-four France, and the fifth-ranked Americans.

This marks the third edition of the series, which debuted in Canada in 2015 with New Zealand winning the title. Canada prevailed the next year when the tournament was held in Salt Lake City. This is its first incantation since, and the first time the field has included five teams instead of four.

The U.S. finished third in 2015 and fourth the next year.

Rachel Johnson will a key role in the American lineup, as a flanker. Johnson has made three official appearances for the national team, the Women’s Eagles. She says putting on the national team jersey brings on a mix of emotions.

“A mixture of both super grateful and super happy,” she said. It’s a reminder of all the work you put in as an individual but it really reminds you of all of the support and it takes to get there.

“So I feel super supported when I’m able to put on that jersey. I’m honored and I’m grateful but it just reminds me of all the support that’s around and I feel like that’s such a confidence builder before you get take the field, so I feel like that’s what the jersey really represents to me.”

The 28-year old Johnson grew up in Carmel, Indiana but didn’t play a lot of organized sports growing up. She picked up rugby as a student at Portland State University when she needed a physical education credit and soon developed a passion for the sport. Today, she competes for the Oregon Sports Union and is one of the top performers in the Women’s Premier League, the top women’s league in America.

Johnson finds rugby empowering on a number of levels.

“I think one, having a team that you can be creative with and you can make mistakes with and they will support you,” she said. “I think that was something I really needed at that time in my life … So, I think the community aspect that rugby brings was important to me.

“And just being able to be 100 percent aggressive and have that be not just accepted but what people wanted from you. That was really something sort of unique and something I’d never experienced before and being able to be 100 percent physical not having to worry about the consequences of getting in a fight that was what really got me hooked.”

Johnson says the five teams in the Super Series will offer a variety of styles of play. “I think the creativity is going to show,” she said. “I think all five teams have been individualizing their game plans so I think it will be an exciting series.

“in that’s sense, I think we’re all going to be playing very different styles, and then I think there will be some explosive hits, a lot of continuity. I think it’s really going to excite people.”

Johnson sees a promising future for women’s rugby in this country, as the sport gains more exposure and as more girls take up the sport at the youth and high-school levels.

“I think rugby is starting to creep into the mainstream American establishment,” she said. “I think just by continuing to market and fund (the sport) this is going to be a big thing.”

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Rick spent more than 15 years in broadcasting before going into print journalism; covering a wide variety of sports during his career but derives his greatest satisfaction from writing about golf and golf history.

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