A “top quality side” like Scotland being in Washington to take on USA this Friday night is “massive” for the sport in DC and for the continued growth of rugby in the whole of America, says Old Glory’s Scottish head coach Simon Cross.

Much has been made of Scotland taking on so-called ‘lesser nations’ on their summer Americas Tour while the likes of Ireland, England, Wales and France are in the Southern Hemisphere. 

However, looking at it from an American perspective Cross, the former Edinburgh Rugby back-rower and captain who came so close to earning an international cap himself, believes a showcase match like this will help the continued growth of rugby across the pond.

“It is a massive thing for the USA to be able to bring a top tier team like Scotland to Washington,” Cross, 43, said this week.

I think it’s heading to being a sell-out at Audi Field [20,000] where DC United normally play football and there has been a real buzz around the Washington rugby community about this game.

“I don’t just mean from Old Glory and the club’s supporters, but from local community clubs and that shows that rugby is continuing to grow here.

“We have the men’s Rugby World Cup coming over here in 2031 and things are building.

“I will be at the match with my family and I can’t wait to see it and hopefully catch up with a few faces from back home.”

While he is excited at the prospect of a USA squad - featuring some of his Old Glory players and who are 18th in the world rankings - taking on Scotland, Cross does fear that it will be a tough night for the hosts who lost 22-20 to Romania in Chicago last weekend.

Sixth in the world Scotland beat Romania 84-0 in last year’s Rugby World Cup for context.

Rory Darge runs through to score during Scotland's Rugby World Cup drubbing of Romania, who beat the USA last weekendRory Darge runs through to score during Scotland's Rugby World Cup drubbing of Romania, who beat the USA last weekend (Image: PA)

Cross stated:  “USA will certainly have their work cut out because Scotland look like they’ll be stronger than last week with a number of the Glasgow players back and they are a top quality side.

“That was as strong a Canadian side as they could have put out and a new-look Scotland team just swept by them [73-12].

“The issue for Canada and USA is getting their players enough games at a high level, they simply don’t play enough international rugby. Their games are too sporadic and the players don’t have a lot of time together. There are some good individuals, but cohesion takes time on task.

“It was brilliant seeing Glasgow Warriors win the URC recently and if some of those guys come back for this game then they’ll want to lead from the front.

“For example, Rory Darge is an excellent player, he is a quality number seven who is so often first to the breakdown. It could well be him against my Old Glory back-rower Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz in the seven shirts on Friday night, that’ll be a physical battle for sure if they face up to each other,

“Scotland will be big favourites.”

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Cross, who retired in his late 20s due to injury, has plenty of coaching experience under his belt in Britain with Scotland age-grade sides, Worcester, the Dragons and others and has now been heading up the coaching at Major League Rugby's Washington-based outfit Old Glory since late 2023.

“It was a tough decision to leave the Dragons because I was really enjoying my work as defence coach there, but this opportunity in Washington was exciting,” he explained.

Simon Cross with wife Sara and sons Senna and Saxon at a Washington Nationals baseball matchSimon Cross with wife Sara and sons Senna and Saxon at a Washington Nationals baseball match (Image: Supplied)

“When I thought about this Old Glory opportunity it was just too good to turn down: moving from being a defence coach to being a head coach, getting involved in a new league and getting to bring the family [wife Sara and sons Senna and Saxon] over and have an adventure together meant it ticked all the boxes.

“Like anything new, you aren’t always sure what to expect, but I have been nothing but impressed with Old Glory and Major League Rugby.

“The league is better than the English Championship. I think the top teams here could give the teams near the bottom end of the URC and near the bottom end of the English Premiership a run for their money.

“It is a league that is improving all the time, is physical and is exciting and with the players that are coming to play here there is real momentum coming into American rugby at the moment.”

Old Glory will be heading to New England to take on the Free Jacks next weekend in an Eastern Conference semi-final play-off match and Cross is not short of tartan influence in his squad with Scotland caps Rob Harley and Damien Hoyland in there along with Stevie Longwell.

Glasgow Warriors legend Rob Harley now plays with Old Glory DCGlasgow Warriors legend Rob Harley now plays with Old Glory DC (Image: SNS)

“Rob and myself played against each other once upon a time, I coached Damien at Scotland under-18 and 20 levels and Stevie is an experienced prop with plenty to offer, so it is great to have them here,” he said.

“We have quite a small coaching group here so Rob, Damien and Stevie have all been helping out a bit in that regard in terms of being player/coaches and it is great to give them that experience.

“For example, Rob has been working as assistant forwards coach alongside forwards coach Stan South who is an Englishman who had a short spell in Edinburgh a few years ago and that combination has been excellent and our lineout has come on leaps and bounds.”