Ex-Bath and England coach Mike Ford joins Dallas in US Major League Rugby

Coach most recently with Toulon signs long-term contract in new league aiming to begin play in springtime 2018 as groups jostling for US success

The former Bath, England and Lions coach Mike Ford has signed with the Dallas Griffins, one of nine teams forming Major League Rugby, a US competition which aims to begin play in 2018.

Fords most recent role was with Toulon, runners-up in the French Top 14, whom he left in May in order to commit himself to another project from next summertime. Last Saturday, he attended the US-AIreland game at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey with Phil Camm, the British-born Dallas chief executive.

Ive been talking to Phil about such projects for well over a year and the challenge actually arouses me. Ford said in an emailed statement. Its a chance to take me out of my convenience zone and the experience will be invaluable.

The opportunity to work from the beginning with a like-minded, trusted group of people, who all want the same thing and to create an environment and cultural activities that hopefully will have a lasting legacy, is too good to turn down. That work starts now.

Major League Rugby will at first employ a mix of professional and semi-professional players and is set to field squads in Glendale, Colorado; Kansas City; Houston, Dallas and Austin; New Orleans, Seattle, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.

In May, MLR deputy commissioner Nick Benson told the US website Rugby Today the league was targeting springtime 2018 for kick-off, adding: We would like to get our season in before the June[ international] window.

MLR is one of a number of projects seeking to establish professional rugby in the US. PRO Rugby, a five-team league sanctioned by governing body USA Rugby, completed a season in 2016. A Super 7s competition recently announced plans to kick-off in July 2018 and the Pro1 2 is looking at placing a team in America. In September the Aviva Premiership will stage a second regular-season game in the US, when Saracens play Newcastle in Philadelphia.

Ford follows Justin Fitzpatrick to Texas and into MLR, the former Ulster and Ireland prop having signed to coach the Houston Strikers.

We are aroused to have Mr Ford in the MLR network, said competitor commissioner Dean Howes. His experience, accomplishment and dedication to the sport will add tremendous value on and off the field.

Mr Ford will join a talented and experienced group of MLR coaches committed to creating the level of the American game. We are looking forward to the launch and many seasons ahead.

Camm said Ford had signed a long-term contract and added that the new Dallas coach, known for his attention to detail and immense work ethic, would work on developing rugby in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

Fords playing career was in rugby league, as a scrum-half for Oldham, Wigan, Castleford, Warrington, the South Queensland Crushers, England and Great Britain. In rugby union, prior to his time with Toulon, he was head coach-and-four at Saracens and Bath and defence coach-and-four for Ireland and England and with the 2005 British and Irish Lions. His son, George Ford, is the current England fly-half.

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