CORK professional rugby player James Rochford has made an impressive start to his new career with American rugby team Rugby United New York.
The former Crosshaven, Cork Constitution and Dolphin prop forward joined the Big Apple rugby team at the start of this year. The Crosshaven native is loving life in New York.
“I am settling in nicely in New York City. It is a big change from Cork and Limerick.
“The sheer size of New York and the constant hustle and bustle of everyday life. The transition was made easier however as there are another few Irish players here which always makes things easier,” revealed the former Munster player.
Rugby United New York are currently in the midst of their debut season, playing in the professional rugby league which only began last year as world rugby chiefs are eager for the league to take off in the USA.
James can see huge potential with the newly created professional league.
“Four more teams are scheduled to enter the league next season. I don’t see why the league can’t keeping growing.
“The games are high scoring, entertaining to watch and very competitive. The league has nationwide coverage on CBS Sports, ESPN, Facebook live which ensures it is reaching millions of homes throughout the country.
“There is also huge interest from other countries with a number of foreign TV companies broadcasting live games.”
James has helped his new side win their opening six league games of the season thus far. Their impressive winning run has helped ensure they have grabbed the attention of sports enthusiasts in the Big Apple who are keen to sample professional rugby.
“The US are crazy for sports. They live and breathe sports from college level to professional level.
“We have enjoyed a great start to the season. New Yorkers love that winning culture. The standard of rugby is high, especially this season.
“Every team has recruited very well and there are a number of top players operating out here.
“We have former England international Ben Foden. He brings huge experience, having played at the highest levels for Northampton Saints.
“We also have a few USA Eagles players who also bring great experience. All the teams in this league have top quality international players in their squads.
“This has a huge effect on fans as they are keen to come out and see top international players in action.
“Most games are sell-outs. There is great interaction with supporters also.
“Over here, they create a show here, both pre-game and post-game. Rugby is growing rapidly here.”
James is one of a number of Irish players playing with Rugby United New York. He was delighted when the newly formed team approached Munster for his signature.
“New York has tapped into the history of Irish people in the city. There are about 10 Irish players here with most of the players coming from the province’s back home and from highest level of AIL Division 1A.
“The move all came about when Munster received an email from New York and a text message from Jerry Flannery. I was excited about the potential of the move.
“They came to Munster looking for front row players and the reference from Jerry led them to contact me directly. They impressed me with their vision and their plan for what they wanted to achieve going forward.
“I bought into their dream and I want to create history with this exciting team in a league full of potential.”
The prop forward began his rugby career with his home town team Crosshaven at the tender age of five. He has represented Cork Constitution, Dolphin and Munster with great distinction down through the years.
The Cork rugby ace also spent two years playing professional rugby in Italy with Lazio. He loved his time there.
“The club were great. There were some great players in that squad from South Africa. We also had Italian internationals and Argentinian players. We pushed hard for the play-offs that season, which was the highest the club had ever reached in its existence.
“We created a winning culture. I also had the benefit of training with the Italian senior international side for their Six Nations Championship which was a great experience. That was huge exposure for me. It was great to be scrumming against Castrogiovanni and Sergio Perisse who are Italian legends really.
“Training against these guys really improved me as a professional.”
His fondness for travelling and taking on new tasks have really helped improve his overall rugby game.
“I think the steps in my career so far were needed, so I could learn and be exposed to higher levels. I picked up huge knowledge along the way from the professional ranks.
“Lazio was a huge learning curve. Every team in the league prided themselves off their set piece. I picked up invaluable techniques there at both sides of the scrum.
“It was the same in Munster when I was playing or training, it was at both sides of the scrum.
“Jerry Flannery had me there at tight head consistently when the Irish internationals were away on tour in the summer months.
“It was great to get exposure from packing down against the likes of John Ryan, Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin.”