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Inside the Scrum: Sam Harris on His 'Duty' of Showing Austin to the World

January 2, 2022 - Major League Rugby (MLR) - Austin Gilgronis News Release


After Inside the Scrum debuted on FOX Sports 2 on Sunday evening, Austin Gilgronis head coach, Sam Harris, spoke to majorleague.rugby about the docuseries.

Having had his first year as the team's head coach closely followed by a camera crew, Harris' introduction to Major League Rugby was certainly unique.

Filming was just one part of the challenge that he and his side faced, alongside changing the fortunes of a team that had never experienced postseason rugby.

Moving to Texas following the pandemic-disrupted season, the Australian clearly had an impact at Bold Stadium. In the 2021 season, Austin missed out on postseason rugby by 10 points, finishing with a winning record for the first time in their history to date.

"Coming here to America, you are almost an ambassador for rugby in this country," Harris said when asked about having his first crack at MLR filmed.

"I felt it was my duty to let people behind the curtain and see what our great game is about, what makes it really special, and I think the docuseries has done a really good job in doing that.

"I think that team sports in America are quite individualistic, and most teams have a star player. The narrative is often around the star player and the head coach, and it is just not like that in rugby.

"In rugby you are only as good as your weakest link and what I wanted to do was portray the sacrifices that people make for quite humble earnings, what they are prepared to put themselves through and the sacrifices they are willing to make for the team.

"Then within that, what kind of atmosphere we are trying to create within the group and why people are coming to do the job every day."

Inside the Scrum gives an all access look at how a professional rugby team is run. Viewers will get to experience the highs and lows of a campaign that went down to the wire as the team's season concluded earlier this summer.

Renting out a cinema to air the first two episodes of the docuseries to the players, coaches and their families, Harris says he wouldn't have changed the process at all.

"I am a huge fan of Hard Knocks and All or Nothing and coming to the USA and taking a job like this, I was always open to this sort of stuff," Harris said.

"When they tentatively brought this to me, I was like; absolutely, let's do this. And, if we were going to do it, we might as well do it right and give all-access and it definitely was. It isn't worth doing unless you do that.

"I introduced the documentary (in the cinema) because Mike Sheehan (GM) couldn't make it and I did a 10-minute speech. Then, the first 15 minutes of the documentary was all me, so it did feel like I was getting everyone there to watch a documentary about me.

"It was hard to watch at times. There are some expletives in there, and I was probably responsible for 50% of them. It is a touch process to watch, but it was pretty cool to share with all the players.

"We did that before our preseason camp, just to get the juices flowing and get the motivation up a little bit more."

With FS2 available in 40 million households across America, there is a potential for both AG Rugby and MLR to be seen by millions of Americans.

Harris, along with the team's GM Mike Sheehan and star back Conner Mooneyham, believe that this will not only benefit the team and the league directly, but also rugby as a whole in America.

"I am certainly hoping to raise the profile of this competition in this country," Harris said. "I have got this saying; in America, there are 320 million rugby fans, they just don't know it yet. It is all about exposure.

"I have asked people in Austin if they know the AGs and maybe two people out of 10 know who we are. Then I'll ask them if they have some sort of connection to rugby, and everybody does.

"Everybody has a crazy uncle who played or a roommate at college. They have all got a story. Even the other day, I was in an Uber and I was talking about how I had a problem with a tighthead, and the guy who was driving me said; are you a rugby coach or something?

"He played rugby and asked me that, just because he heard the word tighthead. There are so many connections within this country around rugby and this year I have seen so many different levels of competition all over the country.

"We definitely have got a foundation of rugby supporters, administrators and people that just love the game. We just need to get on the same bus and go in the same direction."

Inside The Scrum will broadcast on FOX Sports 2 for six consecutive Sundays starting December 26 at 7:00 PM ET. The series will conclude January 30 at 10:30 PM ET, one week before the 2022 MLR season gets underway.

Written by Joe Harvey

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