Tom Court believes New Jersey will be a home away from home for London Irish as they prepare to face league-leaders Saracens in Aviva Premiership Rugby’s first ever overseas fixture this Saturday.
Ireland international prop Court’s experience in touring America with the national side has prepared him for a barrage of support that will be key to transforming the 25,000-seater New Jersey home of MLS side New York Red Bulls into a fortress.
Occurring in the build up to St Patrick’s Day celebrations – in an area renowned for its rich Irish heritage – Court says the Exiles will be hoping to turn Aviva Premiership Rugby’s inaugural tie on foreign soil into a raucous celebration of rugby.
And Court, a British & Irish Lion in 2013, said: “After doing a few tours over there with Ireland, you speak to most of the locals and everyone says they’ve got an Irish relative, or somebody living in Ireland from their family or they’re one-quarter or one-eighth Irish.
“You’d be doing well to find someone over there who hasn’t got some sort of link to Ireland and hopefully we can tap into that Irish heritage that this club thrives on and bases itself on.
“We can really use that to our advantage, really work up the crowd, make sure that they are behind us as a home crowd and really get that American fanatical spirit behind us in the rugby game.
“The physicality, speed and impacts of rugby should really help promote the game over there and really draw in the crowd.”
The Exiles loosehead, who won 32 caps for Ireland, insisted the game was important not just from a London Irish perspective, but that it is vital to expanding rugby’s horizons.
“If you look at how the NFL uses some of their games over here in London, we’re sort of trying to do the opposite,” he explained.
“It is vital not just for Aviva Premiership Rugby, but for rugby in general, trying to get a few games over there so people can see the top teams playing in a competition game where points are riding on it.
“I think rugby is really picking up over there, year after year it is getting bigger and bigger, and they are looking at trying to start a professional league over there as well.
“Obviously the NFL is an explosive, impact sport with a lot of breaks and basketball is continuous and is more a fitness-based game, where it is really exciting end-to-end stuff.
“Hopefully rugby can tap into that market with not only a continuous game, but including a lot of big impacts and collisions that are going to be a spectacle.
“It will be the best of both worlds for the crowd.”
Match tickets for the first ever Aviva Premiership fixture to be played overseas are on sale, click here to find out more.
London Irish are also hosting big screening events in UK to give supporters who are unable to make the journey to USA the chance to watch with fellow London Irish fans. Click here to find out more.