Excitement on and off the pitch as USA Women's Eagles land in LA for match week


The USA Women’s Eagles open the 2024 Pacific Four Series (PAC4) in Los Angeles, welcoming Canada to Dignity Health Sports Park on April 28 at 1:30pm. Sunday will be the Eagles’ only test match on U.S. soil this year, and so it’s the chance for fans to see their national team compete in person.

But there will be other tests running on Sunday as well. Now that there are two Rugby World Cups heading to the states, every U.S. rugby event can be building blocks against those backdrops. We’re still seven years out from those immense, international showcases, but Sunday matters in that build. USA vs Canada kicks off April 28th at 1:30pm followed by MLR newcomer RFCLA vs New England Free Jacks, with the USA match simulcast on RugbyPass TV and Peacock.

The USA last played at home in November 2021, marking the soft launch of the PAC4. The Eagles played Canada twice in Glendale, Colo. Approximately six months later, the USA was named as host country for the Rugby World Cup 2031 and 2033. So, Sunday marks the first time the Eagles are playing in the U.S. since the major announcement as a development focused nation with World Rugby.

New USA Rugby CEO, Bill Goren said on the upcoming event, “I know bringing this team back to home soil has been long anticipated and a result of some hard work, so we're thrilled to see family, friends and USA fans in person this week. Home soil means so much more to an athlete, we're excited for the players to regain that pride and experience.”

USA Rugby has partnered with AEG Rugby on the full slate of Men’s and Women’s home matches this year, as event delivery partners. “The last Rugby World Cup in New Zealand had 2-5,000 people per pool game. The final at Eden Park had over 40,000,” AEG Rugby Director Dan Lyle noted. “The next Rugby World Cup in England in ‘25 will, I expect, set new records, and already in the Women’s Six Nations, they are setting records every week. We have to begin benchmarking where we are, learn from those countries, but importantly tie into the massive uplift that women’s sports are having in the U.S. and learn specifically from those sports and women.”

AEG targeted Dignity Health Sports Park, the site of the HSBC SVNS LA stop, for the USA-Canada test.

There’s a lot of rugby in SoCal, where Girls Rugby, Todd Clever Foundation and SoCal Youth Rugby are leading player clinics this week to stoke the next generation of players. Of the PAC4 touring squad, one player – Freda Tafuna – is from the area. In fact, the current Lindenwood University student-athlete has played at the Dignity Health complex before – during the 2020 LAI 7s with Belmont Shore U18s.

Freda Tafuna Belmont Shore

Photo: Photo: Jacqueline Finlan

"It's a great feeling to see that one of your own is competing at the next level,” said current Belmont Shore coach and lead operations manager Robert Pahulu, who was a U15 coach while Tafuna was with the U18s. “We often preach to our players that the grassroots rugby level is just as important as any other elite side. So to witness Freda doing it, and we get to see it in person? God is good! Freda is a true testament to that. Our girls now know this dream and goal is possible and retainable.”

The players themselves echo that enthusiasm to connect with the U.S. fandom. Fourteen of the 31 players named to the touring squad competed in the 2021 PAC4 series in Colorado, but the rest of the field is looking for its first U.S.-based start.

“Playing in LA allows more family, friends and U.S.-based fans to attend, which fuels and inspires the squad in a way that’s just not possible when on the road,” explained USA Captain for the home match, Rachel Johnson, who played with the ORSU Jesters before heading overseas to the Exeter Chiefs. “Personally, I’m grateful at the prospect to see and hear friends and past club mates from Oregon in the crowd — a fierce and tender reminder of where my passion for rugby and rugby community was first sparked.”

Johnson will serve as USA captain for the Sunday match and is excited to lead a squad that will play its second under new head coach Sione Fukofuka.

“Under new leadership from head coach Sione, I believe the group is being supported in a game plan that will showcase our strengths and sharpen the technical and tactical bits that must improve to truly compete on the international stage,” the loose forward added. “Growth happens in stages, and he’s been extremely clear on the goals set for this team as well as the standards that are necessary for their achievement. Clarity in preparation leads to confidence, which breeds success.”

With eyes on the future, USA Rugby has developed targeted fundraising with the program around Rugby World Cup 2025 through a new endowment, labeled “25 for ‘25” - a recurring monthly donation of $25 (or more) to the Women’s Eagles from now until Rugby World Cup 2025. As USA Rugby looks to grow the recurring donations exponentially, each contribution makes a significant impact on the Eagles training and daily player environment. As an endowment, gifts to the Women's National Team are invested so that the cumulative income can be used by the USA Eagles in Rugby World Cup years.

The XV Foundation is entirely devoted to the Women’s Eagles success, on and off the pitch. The fundraising support group of the Women’s National Team is targeting the Sunday test to engage supporters in a silent auction. The bidding on a collection of amazing rugby items and experiences continues until 5pm PT on Sunday, April 28.

"It's high time we're back playing in the USA,” XV Foundation co-founder and former USA Captain Kristine Sommer enthused. “We must expand the game as much as possible with the upcoming 2031 and 2033 World Cups and give more exposure to the women's game, especially in the USA. The more we can unite behind the team and support them as the sport continues to professionalize, the better."

Rugby media outlets have also rallied behind the USA-Canada match, offering giveaway and discounted tickets to their followers. Penn State’s Danica Luzak won Barstool’s giveaway; Elvira Figueroa and Isabella Byrne took home Your Scrumhalf Connection’s tickets; WRCRA member Katie Williams of Santa Monica, Calif., is the U.S. Women’s Rugby Foundation winners; and Cal’s Mahiya Ellis and Mariah Overby were randomly selected by The Rugby Breakdown – bringing together women’s rugby fans across all levels of the game.

“This past summer I had the opportunity to watch our assistant coach, Evan Hoese, play Premier Rugby Sevens for the Experts,” Ellis noted. “But I haven’t had the chance to watch our Women Eagles in person yet. I’m really looking forward to seeing the dynamic shift and level of creativity at the higher levels of rugby. And excited to spot some Eagles whose journeys I’ve been following on social media.”

Goren closed with, “As World Rugby organizes their event locations in concert with all participating unions, we're eager to build more home events around them in the future, along with the opportunity to host WXV. Much will depend on club seasons and proper amount of pre-planning, but the road to a successful Rugby World Cup in 2033 has to be paved with our Eagles on home soil and a robust plan to build that profile, brick by brick.”