Rugby ATL aims for big impact in metro Atlanta

Want to understand rugby? Ask Scott Lawrence.

"Think about if you were to play a football game, and there was a play every three seconds," explains the longtime player and coach. "When you think about an 80-minute contest, 40 minutes of that, the ball is in play."  

Lawrence now serves as general manager of Rugby ATL, Atlanta’s professional Major League Rugby team; after a first season cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team is three matches into its second season.

"We want it to be a place where you can come with your family, have a great time, see a good game, have some positive energy," Lawrence says. "People need a little positivity these days."

Speaking of positive energy, Rugby ATL is attracting some of the top talent in the world; the team’s roster includes standouts like Matt Heaton, a two-time Rugby Canada Player of the Year.

"When I was looking to play in the MLR, Atlanta was one of the spots," says Heaton. "When you start a new franchise, you get a blank board, and you literally put whatever you want on it and what type of team you want to be. And we want to be a family team that works hard for each other."  

Players say they also want to be the kind of that that makes a big impact off the field, reaching to the community through youth programs and by coaching at a local club.

"It's unbelievable, actually, to see the people from Atlanta actually grab it on, with everything they have," says South African-native Johannes "Neets" Gericke. "They're very supportive, and we're trying to be supportive to them, as well, trying to give back to the community."

Priority, of course, is winning matches; thus far, the team’s record is 2-1. Home matches are played in Marietta at Lupo Field at Life University, which boasts a national championship-winning rugby program of its own. 

"It's a broad appeal to a lot of us that joined this team to be able to…build the culture and build the foundation for what this team is and what it'll become," Marietta-native Jason Damm said. "So it's very special to be there at the start of something, at the genesis, and help shape what it will be." 

For more information on Rugby ATL and for the team’s full schedule, click here.