The NRL is coming to the USA, what you can expect to see

Viva Las Fullbacks: NRL stars set to light up Las Vegas (1:04)

These are just some of the plays fans can expect to see when rugby league hits the strip for the start of the 2024 NRL season. (1:04)

One of Australia's top two sports will launch its 2024 season with a double-header at Allegiant Stadium, just a few short weeks after Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs won the Super Bowl at the same venue. And while Las Vegas certainly knows how to put on a show, whether it be U2 at the Sphere, Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group or Siegfried & Roy, they are about to be treated to something completely new, a glimpse of a football code quite unlike anything they have witnessed live before.

Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) is coming to the strip and is set to challenge another wildly popular Vegas show for its 'Thunder from Down Under' title.

NFL fans might notice some familiarities with rugby league, a delicate mix of pace, skill and courage, as elite athletes launch themselves at each other in an often brutal, always entertaining contest. But the games are very different beasts.

Rugby League is a break-away version of rugby union, a move which took place early in the 20th century as players looked to become professionals. Apart from the introduction of player payments, there were several rule changes that fundamentally altered the game from its rugby union origins.

These changes included a reduction in the number of players on the field from 15 to 13, the elimination of a serious contest for possession at every tackle and a revised point scoring system. Some years later the number of tackles each team could have with the ball was limited to six, much like American Football's four downs, only without the ability to reset the count by progressing downfield.

In short, while the name is similar and many of the skills are shared, rugby league is a different game to rugby union. Actor Russell Crowe recently took the time to voice a video explaining the rules for the American audience. Apart from being a Hollywood star, Crowe is a very proud part owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, one of the teams involved in this ground breaking promotion.

Australia's rugby league competition originated in Sydney and has been played since 1908. Two of the teams on their way to Las Vegas, the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs, are foundation clubs, both with long and successful histories. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles represent the Northern Beaches region of Sydney and have been a part of the competition since 1947. The fourth team are the Brisbane Broncos who represent the capital of the state of Queensland and first entered the expanding competition in 1988.

While the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles just missed out of the NRL finals last season, the Roosters played their part in the post season action, while the Broncos fell just one win short of taking the title when they were beaten by the Penrith Panthers in the grand final. All four teams are expected to be in the mix for the 2024 finals and will be desperate to launch their seasons with a first-up victory. These will not be exhibition games; fans will experience the full intensity of two clashes for vital competition points.

If you're wondering which players you should keep an eye on, let me recommend the fullbacks, four of the NRL's finest players in that position, and easy enough to spot as they'll all be wearing the No. 1 jersey for their respective teams. The Sea Eagles' Tom Trbojevic, Roosters' James Tedesco and Rabbitohs' star Latrell Mitchell have all represented New South Wales and Australia, while Broncos' fullback Reece Walsh has represented Queensland and is regarded as the one of the most exciting players of his generation.

A fullback in rugby league is similar to the American football position of the same name, in that he spends a large part of the game behind his teammates and is required to regularly run the ball into the opposition defense. Apart from that, rugby league fullbacks are expected to set up attacking raids, return kicks, and be the last line of defense for their team. Remembering that all players play both offense and defense.

The halfbacks are also players to watch for during the game. They are rugby league's version of a quarterback, with most plays orchestrated by the usually diminutive, crafty and elusive players wearing No. 7 jerseys. Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry Evans has represented Queensland and Australia, while Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds is a veteran of the game who has represented New South Wales. The Roosters' Sam Walker and the Rabbitohs' Lachlan Ilias are both young stars of the game. The halfbacks can usually be found at the centre of all the offensive action and are often targeted in defense by the bigger opposition players. A good performance from a halfback may not guarantee his team victory, but a really poor game will almost certainly lead to defeat.

You'll also notice some larger players, rugby league's equivalent of linemen, only much more mobile with greater aerobic capacity. These players are referred to as the forwards and it is their responsibility to gain yardage in the middle of the field where the collisions are at their most ferocious. The Philadelphia Eagles lineman Jordan Mailata was a forward in his formative years for the Rabbitohs.

Winning the battle of the forwards is key to winning the game, as their momentum allows the offense to flourish against a back- pedaling defense. A tiring defense is also more prone to missing tackles, opening the game up for some spectacular running and passing movements.

So at 6.30pm, Saturday March 2, at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs will kick off the 2024 NRL season. At 8.30pm the Roosters and Broncos have their turn on centre stage. If you enjoy fast-paced, almost non-stop action with elite athletes showcasing a range of skills and unmatched stamina and physical endurance, you are going to want to catch the show the NRL is bringing to the heart of Nevada.