Worcester Warrior Legend Chris Pennell Signs With The Jackals
The Dallas Jackals are excited to announce long-time and record setting Worcester Warrior Chris Pennell is coming to Dallas! Along with his many elite years of rugby experience, Pennell brings a strong desire to connect with the community and help grow the sport of rugby in Dallas and beyond.
Worcester born-and-bred, Pennell began playing rugby at 8 years old with the Bredon Buzzards. He comes from an athletic family being the son of England cricket legend Graham Dilley, so sports being introduced at a young age was a given. After a few family moves, he ended up at Old Swinford Hospital School, a school rich in rugby tradition. After representing England in U19s, he went straight into the Warriors Academy program and burst onto the scene in 2007 making his Premiership debut at the age of 19.
This began a recording setting career for Pennell at the Warriors.
The full-back made his 200th appearance for the Club against the Harlequins during the 2017/18 season and became the first Warriors player to make 150 Premiership appearances when he led out the side for his Testimonial Match in March 2019. Pennell scored his 400th point (all for the Warriors) and made his 250th appearance for the club in February 2021.
While 2007 marked the beginning of Pennell’s Premiership career, it also marked his diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes. Pennel has been a tremendous advocate for those living with the incurable, genetic disease, and went on to make unique records for the community.
The former Warriors captain, Pennell was named vice-captain for the 2013/14 season and went on to play every minute of every Aviva Premiership game during Warriors’ campaign.His outstanding form during that season was rewarded with an Aviva Premiership Player of the Season nomination and a call-up to the England squad for the 2014 New Zealand tour. He made his England debut against the All Blacks and later against the Crusaders became the first Type 1 Diabetic to score a try for England.
Despite suffering an injury at the start of the 2014/15 season, Pennell bounced back to play 17 times for Warriors’ Championship-winning side, scoring 10 tries – including two in a man-of-the-match performance against Bristol Rugby, securing promotion back to the Premiership. He was also named man-of-the-match for England Saxons in January 2015.
Pennell yet again showed his worth to the Club in the 2015/16 season, playing in every Aviva Premiership game and scoring two tries. The full-back was solid under the highball and recorded the most meters made (1796) in a single season since Opta began recording stats.
The number 15 kept his consistency throughout 2016/17 and 2017/18, the latter where he made 22 appearances and kicked 86 points.
The 2018/19 season marked Pennell’s Testimonial Year, as Sixways Stadium recognized a true legend. The Testimonial Year raised funds for Diabetes UK, The Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust, and Acorns Children’s Hospice.
Pennell’s glittering career with Warriors came to an end when he left Sixways for one final time at the end of the 2020/21 season.
When asked why he pursued the MLR Pennell says, “I’ve had an eye on the MLR since its launch. It’s only a matter of time until the USA becomes a powerhouse in the international game and a strong domestic league will be the supportive backbone to years of success on the World stage. The thought of contributing to that in the formative years captivates me and I truly believe there are some incredible times ahead for the game, especially for the Jackals and rugby in Dallas.
He continued, “The whole opportunity with the Jackals is very compelling. The drive to make a connection in the community, truly engage with the fanbase, to look after the Jackals family, be a part of building something new, and inspire the next generation of players, is time very well spent. I instantly felt a connection with Elaine and how she sees the culture developing.”
Pennell also brings years of leadership skills to Dallas, “I want to bring my experience and leadership to help the talent around me play with the freedom, expression, and confidence needed to create a winning team.” As a trustee of the Worcester Warriors Community Foundation, Pennell has seen first hand the importance of inclusivity within the rugby community and wants to share this with my new teammates in Dallas.
Elaine Vassie, Jackals GM, said, “Chris obviously comes with a fantastic record – 253 professional games is no easy achievement, much less so when it’s all been at one club. The leading component of our search though is in looking for the right people in both their on field and off field attributes to help us accelerate the development of young domestic players here in the US.” Vassie continued, “Chris’s values as a person, his passion for exactly this kind of project, and alignment with our desire to play an exciting brand of rugby shone through in our conversations and I’m very much looking forward to welcoming him, his wife Jo, and children Harla & Tristan to the pack.”
With training starting in a few months, Pennell will travel to the US with his wife Joanna and children Harla (7) and Tristan (5) making multiple visits during the season. Back home, Pennell also has a Border Collie named Nala and an “overweight cat named Zeus, who is the boss.”
Pennell notes that his family loves adventures, so “getting to experience this with my family will be amazing.” He says he’s a big foodie, loves to cook, and is excited to try some of what Dallas has to offer. He continued, “I love to play golf although I don’t play as much as I would like, which is my excuse for not being all that good.”
Welcome to the Pack Chris, Joanna, Harla, and Tristan!
About Dallas Jackals —
The Dallas Jackals are a professional rugby team of Major League Rugby (MLR), the highest level of rugby competition in North America. The Jackals were named as an expansion team in 2020 and will play their inaugural season in 2022. The team’s central mission is to develop domestic talent to a world-class level of play and professionalism while strengthening the high- performance pathway in DFW by supporting the local clubs. Through proactive Community Outreach, the Jackals will exemplify and spread the passion of rugby by inspiring tradition, respect, family, and character on and off the pitch.
About MLR —
Major League Rugby is a professional sports league entering its fifth season and represents the highest level of rugby competition in North America. The League evolved from seven teams in 2018, to 13 teams in 2022, featuring 12 from the United States and one from Canada. Matches are televised on CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports 2, and ESPN+, among other national and local market platforms. All matches are available on Facebook Live for international fans. MLR prides itself in fostering intense and high-stakes competition, while bringing together a passionate community built on the values of Respect, Inclusivity, and Tradition. For more information about MLR, visit MajorLeague.Rugby.
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