While the Division I-AA playoffs take over other football stadiums in the area, Franklin Field will open its doors to a different game tonight.
The ball may bear some resemblance to the one tossed around by the stadium's usual tenants, and the home team will take the field wearing red and blue. This time, though, the sport in question is rugby, and the matchup features the United States taking on world No. 1 Australia.
The game will be played between the nations' Rugby League teams. Rugby League is different from the more widely known code of Rugby Union, although it is quite similar to that game -- and, in some ways, to American football as well.
Each side has 13 players, with between four and six more players available for substitutions. The main method of scoring is the try, similar to the touchdown in American football. It is worth four points, and the conversion afterward is worth two points.
Two points are also awarded for a successful penalty kick, equivalent to a field goal, which is given after a foul. A field goal in rugby union occurs when a player drop-kicks the ball through the uprights, and is worth one point.
Graham Annesley, Chief Operating Officer of the Australian Telstra Premiership -- the domestic rugby league in Australia, whose prominence is similar to that of the NBA or NFL in the U.S. -- called the game a "real opportunity for the fans of Philadelphia, and the college students in particular, to come see a game that's not too dissimilar in concept to American football."
"To see the world champion team play ... is unlikely to come again in the short term," he said.
Annesley said that student tickets would be available at the door for $5, a discount from the reserve seat price of $20 and the general admission price of $10.
Students will also be able to enter a contest to win an all-expenses paid trip to Australia.
"I'd encourage the students to come and support the American team," Annesley said. "Make as much noise as possible and support their national team."
Both teams will have to adapt to the intricacies of Franklin Field and its American football-based layout.
This will be the first time the Australians have ever played on an artificial surface. It likely won't be the last, however, as countries start to use synthetic turf for soccer and other sports.
"This is state-of-the-art technology here," Annesley said. "It's really a good opportunity for us to assess this type of surface for our game."
The normal football goalposts will also be used, which is a considerable deviation from the sport's usual rules. Rugby goalposts are placed on the try line, which is the goal line in American football. There is a crossbar in both sports.
"It just adds a slightly different perspective, slant on the game to viewers in Australia," Annesley said. "There's a lot of interest in the game back home."
Indeed, Australian TV stations were present at Franklin Field throughout the U.S. team's practice yesterday, even interviewing local reporters about their knowledge of rugby.
The game will be broadcast live both in Australia and in the United States, with Fox Sports World carrying the Australian feed to American homes. The channel is not on Penn's cable system, but it is available in some off-campus houses and in bars throughout the city.
One aspect of the surface which will likely not affect the game is the American football markings on the field, according to U.S. coach and native Australian Shane Millard.
"It's the same for both sides," he said. "You don't really notice much about the markings."
Millard is also hoping for a big turnout, especially with the amount of media exposure the game has received.
"It'll be really great if we can get a good crowd here," he said. "The boys have done all the work they can possibly do, so it's just up to the people to turn up."Comments powered by Disqus
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