Aussies are bringing rugby to the states. No pads? No helmets? No problem.

The National Rugby League (NRL) will kick off its season, Saturday, for the first time on American soil, live on FS1 and the FOX Sports app. 

The wildly popular NRL bills itself as one of the most-watched programs on Australian television, attracting more than 100 million viewers each year. A large American audience will now have a chance to witness the fast-paced sport when Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas hosts the historic season-opening double header. 

Ahead of the double header, ‘FOX & Friends Weekend’ spoke to members of four New York-area rugby clubs about the sport, so they could give Americans unfamiliar with it a taste of what to expect.


FOX & Friends Weekend’ co-host Pete Hegseth asked the men – a mix of team captains and coaches from the New York, Suffolk, Rockaway, and Long Island rugby clubs – what new audiences should look for if they’re tuning into the sport for the first time on FS1. “It looks like sports we’re familiar with, but not exactly the same,” the co-host commented. 

“I wanna say, you’re going to be looking for nonstop action, hard hits and a good time,” team captain Wesley Bybel said. 

Co-host Will Cain then asked the Long Island club coach, “Max, what attracts guys in America, in Long Island, New York to rugby?” Max Witowski noted that his love of football eventually led him to it. “Well, I started playing in college – wanted to be a football player – didn’t quite make the team. And some guy said, ‘Come try rugby.’ I said I’d never really known the sport before that.” He said that soon after, he went to the rugby field, started playing, and has been playing for the 15 years since.

Dan Bamford, an Englishman who coaches one of the New York clubs, told the co-hosts where the sport is most popular. He said, “It’s played all across Europe, mainly in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland.”

“So we’re taught from a very young age, from like six, seven, or eight, and then we carry on all the way through, to adulthood,” Bamford added. 

The Englishman was then asked to explain a drill that was being conducted by several rugby players just off camera. He said, “What’s happening is, in Rugby basically, you have to obviously pass the ball backwards. So they’re just doing a little three-on-two drill at the moment, cause you play both sides of the ball. You play offense and defense.” 

He continued, “So what they’re doing at the moment, you have three attackers taking on two defenders, trying to move the ball past them in a traditional sense.”

The men answered a few of Hegseth and Cain’s more specific rugby-related questions, like about what happens in the “scrum” and where the bigger guys on the team usually play. 


Bamford explained that teams want their faster guys, the guys “with the wheels,” on the edge of the field, so they can take the ball “all the way into the try zone” – the rugby equivalent of the end zone. 

Hegseth marveled at the fact that these players do not use helmets or pads while playing. Witowski remarked, “It is really a game for all shapes and sizes, whether you’re big, small or in-between, you can come down and play and have a good time.” Wesley followed up, declaring, “You gotta have the heart.”

“That’s what football should look like,” Cain added. 

The co-host also noted that there are a lot of injuries associated with the sport. However, he said there are fewer concussions than in American football. 

One of the captains, Ciaran O’Hara, explained this, saying, “You tend to develop better technique playing rugby than in football, because you don’t feel indestructible the way you do when you’re wearing a football helmet, and pads and everything.”

The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles face off with the South Sydney Rabbitohs at 9:30 p.m. ET, followed by Sydney Roosters against the Brisbane Broncos at 11:30 p.m. ET. For a breakdown of the rules, the NRL released a promotional video on X earlier this month narrated by Australian actor Russell Crowe.

“Arguably the fastest, most aggressive ball-in-hand football game that exists,” Crowe, co-owner of South Sydney, explained. 

As explained by the “Gladiator” actor, each team has 13 players on the field with just four on the bench playing in an 80-minute game with two halves. The game is played on a 100-meter field (approximately 110 yards) with an oval-shaped ball. 

Unlike American football, rugby features no pads or helmets, no timeouts, no forward passing, and every player can tackle, pass and kick the ball when necessary. Instead of four downs, teams have six tackles to attempt to move the ball forward, and there are more scoring opportunities, which range from one point to four. 

Fans can tune in live on FS1 and the FOX Sports app. 

Fox News’ Brian Flood contributed to this report.