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Bryce Campbell – The Midwesterner Captaining The Chicago Hounds

Written by Joe Harvey

On Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Hounds will play their first home game. Major League Rugby’s newest team will be playing one of the league’s first, the Utah Warriors, and looking for a first-ever franchise win.

Sam Harris’ team began life in MLR in week one, the Midwesterners traveling to Eastern Conference side Old Glory DC and losing 42-27 at Segra Field.

Bryce Campbell is Chicago’s first-ever captain, the 28-year-old USA Eagle bringing with him plenty of experience from time spent in England with Premiership club London Irish, while also having been a standout player with the Colorado Raptors and Austin.

His latest challenge is with the Hounds, the center hailing from the Midwest after being born and raised in Indiana and now will be bringing professional rugby to his home region.

“I have been dreaming of a professional rugby team in the Midwest since I was a little kid,” Campbell told MLR.

“For Sam [Harris, head coach] to ask me to do it and for the guys to be on board, it is a massive responsibility and something that I have got to earn day in and day out and try to lead by example and put my best foot forward.

“It is an incredible honor, and walking out there this weekend at a home stadium in the Midwest will be pretty special.”

Playing at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, it is a venue that has particularly special memories for Campbell.

Back in 2016, it was where Campbell first pulled on a USA jersey in a 54-7 loss to the Māori All Blacks, effectively launching his international career.

With 40 Test caps to his name, Campbell and the rest of his teammates look forward to kick-starting their time among a host of storied sporting franchises in Chicago.

Photo by the Chicago Bulls

“It’s all just excitement,” Campbell said. “The stadium looks awesome. We trained yesterday and saw the field get lines.

“SeatGeek Stadium is an incredible place, and Chicago is a great city. We just want to put on a performance that the fans can get excited about and get out the first win. That is what we are looking for.”

HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME

“Immediately after the game, I was very disappointed,” Campbell said of Chicago’s 42-27 loss to Old Glory. “But after looking at it on film, there were several errors that really hurt us, and the game got away from us early on.

“We showed a lot of promise coming back in, still playing a lot of rugby. A lot of statistics were in our favor. There is a lot to build off of.

“We fixed some things that really let us down in that game. It is a group that has been together six weeks, so you can’t be too hard on it.

“But, you have got to learn and learn quickly. We’ll see how we go this weekend.”

Photo by the Chicago Hounds

Heading into the opening weekend of the 2023 season, the odds were already stacked against the Hounds.

Getting a group of players together and getting them on the same page in a short period of time is no easy task.

What can be said for Chicago is that there is plenty of excitement surrounding them. This is in part thanks to the exciting roster created by Harris and General Manager, James English.

With the likes of Mark O’Keeffe, Chris Mattina, Luke Carty, and Charlie Abel all having opted to call the Midwest home from this point onwards, there is plenty of talent among their ranks.

Photo by Paris Malone

Buoyed this week with the recruitment of former Austin and NOLA Gold wing Julian Dominguez, it is a side that, on paper, could well thrive with more time to build cohesion.

In addition to a strong roster, Chicago quickly caught the imagination of supporters and sold over 600 season tickets within the first 24 hours of them going on sale.

In a city and region with a strong rugby culture and an ownership group embedded in the community, there is the potential for a strong crowd to sit in the stands as the Hounds go toe-to-toe with the Utah Warriors.

“The team has done a good job to build some buzz around us and this opening weekend,” Campbell said. “We’re expecting people to be there and be excited, and we will just start from here and see where it goes. I think everyone is pretty optimistic about how this will go.”

Greg Cooper’s Utah Warriors come into the game fresh off the back of a win over the Dallas Jackals at Zions Bank Stadium, setting up the fixture to be one to remember.

Beaten 33-17 by the San Diego Legion to start the season, the side weathered a late Jackals resurgence to beat their Conference rivals from Texas and had two players included in the RTIC XV of the Week.

“Utah, on their day, are probably the best team in the league when they are firing on all cylinders,” Campbell said.

“They have got a lot of X-Factor. They are just a tough team to play against when they’re on. It’s a massive challenge for us, but is something we are excited for, and I think we are ready for.”

The post Bryce Campbell – The Midwesterner Captaining The Chicago Hounds appeared first on Major League Rugby.