Waratahs enter player exchange with MLR club San Diego Legion

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The NSW Waratahs have entered a historic commercial partnership with Major League Rugby franchise the San Diego Legion in a bid to develop growth and alignment between Australian and American rugby and help curb player drain.

One of the founding and most successful franchises of the MLR, the Legion was established in 2017 and is owned by US-based Australian lawyer Darren Gardner and US entrepreneur Ryan Patterson and has featured international stars such as Ma'a Nonu and Chris Robshaw.

In a statement, the Waratahs said they aim to use the partnership to assist in the promotion and growth of the game both in NSW and in the United States, with the exchange of business ideas but most importantly it will allow the clubs to exchange players, share talent identification information and provide development players the opportunity to experience rugby in another country.

It's a ground-breaking move from the Waratahs that will aim to curb player drain with the MLR becoming a growing threat to the depth of talent within Australian rugby.

"This is a ground-breaking partnership with the opportunities it creates for both the Waratahs and the San Diego Legion," Waratahs CEO Paul Doorn said.

"The USA is the sleeping giant in world rugby and provides fantastic commercial and player development opportunities.

"The rapid growth and success of the MLR highlights the potential of the game in the USA and we look forward to working closely with the Legion to strengthen both organisations from a commercial and high-performance perspective."

In a collaborative deal, the partnership aims to build the profile of the Legion within Australia and Asia while the initiative aims to foster and grow coaching depth.

"San Diego Legion is very focused on being a world class rugby organization. The US has a phenomenal pool of athletes and has the potential talent to become a legitimate force in world rugby," San Diego Legion Co-owner Darren Gardner said.

"To do that, we need to continue to learn and develop our rugby systems, coaches, players and administration and we are excited by the opportunity that the partnership with the Waratahs presents for us to take that to the next level.

"At the same time, the US is the world's largest economy and the global leader in professional sports. As a rugby market, it offers a commercial opportunity that doesn't exist anywhere else. It is an amazing time for the game here and we look forward to welcoming the Waratahs into the fold.

"For me personally, growing up in country New South Wales with a life-long passion for rugby, I could not be more delighted with the partnership".