Growing up on the pitches of Ireland, Conor Kindregan was accustomed to hearing about national rugby powerhouses like New Zealand, South Africa and England.

But he remembers hearing whispers about a budding power across the pond that didn’t rub shoulders with the traditional bastions of the game.

“I remember even when I was … a kid, they always called America the sleeping giant of rugby, because there’s such potential for sports growth here," he said.

Kindregan, who has played at the highest level of club rugby in Ireland, saw the chance to help nudge that giant awake when he signed with the New England Free Jacks of Major League Rugby, which is in just its fourth season of competition.

For the Free Jacks, this was supposed to be their second full season of competition. But after just five matches, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the league just as New England was getting ready to play in front of home fans for the first time last year.

Now the team and league are looking forward to a full season and the chance to help grow the game in the states. The Free Jacks finally got that chance to play at home April 3, when they edged the Utah Warriors, 22-21.

To hear the full story, click on the audio player above.