WWE Champion Sheamus lines up with to over 100 kids from all backgrounds at Columbia Preparatory School in Manhattan.London Irish

The interest and anticipation surrounding the historic London Irish-Saracens rugby match at red Bull Arena continues to build with each passing day.

Last week, several Aviva Premiership coaches were joined by USA Eagles star Mike Petri, former New York Jets star and WWE Champion Sheamus to show the value and fun of the sport to over 100 kids from all backgrounds at Columbia Preparatory School in Manhattan. The three-hour clinic again showed how far rugby has come in the United States, and how valuable the March 12 match-up will be to grow the game.

“I love rugby, I played my whole life and have followed the developments of this match from the very beginning, it will be something no one should miss,” said Sheamus, as he donned a skin tight red rugby tee and mixed it up with the kids. “It’s a real action sport, no pads, and lots of fun!”

Nic Rouse, former London Irish player and current coach was also impressed by both the turnout and the enthusiasm amongst the kids. “It is great to see how fast rugby is growing in the States, and to get the kids involved from an early age is the key,” he said. “When you look at the turnout here today, you see the potential, and our match on the March 12 will be a great next step.”

Read more: London Irish and Saracens to play first ever Premiership match in US

Sheamus and one of the instructors.

Sheamus and one of the instructors.

The coaches were going on to do clinics in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington before heading home, with the return coming the week leading into the event.

The anticipation for March is continuing to build and London Irish’s Canadian lock Jebb Sinclair is already raring to go ahead of their historic Aviva Premiership Rugby home game against Saracens at New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena.

The Exiles will fittingly be the first team to host an Aviva Premiership Rugby game overseas when they welcome defending champions Saracens to the 25,000-seater home of MLS side New York Red Bulls on March 12.

They will be looking to capture the imagination of New Jersey and New York’s large Irish population and Sinclair, who starred at the Rugby World Cup for Canada, is convinced there is huge potential for rapid expansion.

“As far as North America and the U.S. is concerned, once they get a sniff of rugby I really think that they are going to fall in love with it and it is our responsibility to put a spectacle on,” Sinclair explained.

“There are going to be quite a few people that might never have seen it and might not know how much of a chess match a full 80 minutes can be. I know all the boys are very excited to play over there in New York, which is a great city, and at the Red Bull, which is a great stadium.”

Putting everyone through their paces at a rugby clinic in Columbia Preparatory School in Manhattan last week.

Putting everyone through their paces at a rugby clinic in Columbia Preparatory School in Manhattan last week.

Irish, who sit 11th in Aviva Premiership Rugby, face a trip to Bath Rugby and welcome Gloucester Rugby to the Madejski Stadium either side of their transatlantic journey and with every point valuable, Sinclair believes the trip can provide the perfect inspiration.

“I don’t think the distance will factor into anything. It will give the boys a lot of energy, playing on a different continent, in a different country, in front of a different crowd,” he added. “I think everyone will be excited to play there and want not just to be the first team to play there, but the first to win there. That is something you will be able to hang on your mantlepiece for a long time.”

And Sinclair added: “I had a few niggles early in the season, but I am coming back fresh now and looking to help the team build and working on our consistency and raising our level.”

For all the latest developments on the match, go to http://www.londonirishusa.com/