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Photo during NRL season-opener shows the US still doesn't know what rugby league is

America's broadcast of the NRL season-opener referred to the sport as 'Major League Rugby'.

The US broadcast of the NRL season-opener referred to rugby league as 'Major League Rugby'. Image: Getty
The NRL took Las Vegas by storm, with the crowd exceeding expectations for the historic season-opener. Image: Getty

The NRL may have taken Las Vegas by storm, with the crowd exceeding expectations as the Souths Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Sea Eagles kicked off the 2024 season, but it didn't go off without a hitch. In a scintillating opening match, the two sides did anything but falter, however, the same can't be said about America's Fox Sports broadcast.

The start of the game was first switched from Fox Sports 1 to Fox Sports 2 after a US college basketball match went into overtime. The NRL was meant to air on the network's primary channel, Fox Sports 1, but Xavier vs Georgetown went late resulting in the NRL season-opener being booted to the broadcaster's second channel - although the change ensured American fans didn't miss any of the action.

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The main channel picked up the match from the 18-minute mark, just in time to see Manly flyer Jason Saab burning down the sideline only for a desperate Lachlan Ilias ankle tap to bring him down. But the broadcaster wasn't out of the woods, with an error being picked up by eagle-eyed fans.

Fox Sports 2's broadcast of NRL season-opener
America's broadcast of the NRL season-opener referred to rugby league as 'Major League Rugby'. Image: Twitter

While plenty of Americans took to social media to post about their new-found love for the sport, the country still evidently hasn't come to terms with the fact that the NRL is rugby league and not rugby union. A graphic from the start of the FS2 telecast described the match as "Major League Rugby", showing the NRL still has a lot of work to do to explain itself to its new American audience.

Major League Rugby couldn't be further from rugby league. Not only is it a 15-man code, it is the name of the rugby union league in the United States and Canada, which was founded in 2017.

America has a mixed reaction to NRL

America's reaction to NRL on the whole was mixed, with potential fans trying to learn about the code on the fly. That was also the case for US sports writer David Lengel, who covered the Manly-Souths game despite not having much of an idea of what rugby league is.

"I do know that kick-off (is that what you call it?) is happening soon, so get your Foster’s and your Marmite or whatever the hell you eat and drink down there (shrimp?) and get ready for some Rugby League Football," he wrote in a live blog for The Guardian.

"OK, I was told that the matchup today is Souths vs Manly, but at least according to the field markings I saw earlier, it looks like KFC are the home team, since their logo is in both end zones," he wrote. "Which team is KFC? Assuming it’s the Sea Eagles since they’re closest to chickens. I’ve also learned that the distances are marked in meters, not yards, so already we have a problem. Luckily I have an app that can help with this."

He also was uncertain if Lachlan Croker being cut open was a normal occurrence: "Is this normal? Croker Lachlan is really banged up. This is like human cockfighting. But they play on! Jesus," he wrote. During the match fans debated if rugby league could be successful in America but most agreed it was at least a fun sport to watch.

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