Free Jacks Academy To Play Historic Northern Ireland Match in 2024

New England Men’s Independents (U23) to face Ulster Academy May 16th at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast

QUINCY, MA December 11, 2023 – The New England Free Jacks are thrilled to announce that our senior men’s academy team, the New England Men’s Independents U23s, will travel to Belfast in May of 2024 to take on Northern Island powerhouse, Ulster Academy, at the under 23 years of age level. 

This marks an historic occasion for the Free Jacks organization, embarking on the club’s first ever international trip. It is an opportunity to return the favor to Ulster following their participation in the 2019 Cara Cup hosted by the Free Jacks in greater Boston, and continues the exponential growth of the Free Jacks Academy in providing further high-level opportunities for New England rugby athletes. The New England Independents program has seen 16 players go on to represent various MLR franchises, Ethan Fryer (Free Jacks) and Connor Robinson (Dallas Jackals) of note, proving to be a pipeline for higher representative honors. 

“Off the back of a successful 2023 academy season which saw our Independents side win all regional spring fixtures and go back-to-back as champions at the NCR Collegiate All Stars, we are delighted to keep a core nucleus of that squad together and embark on this fantastic developmental opportunity to Belfast,” eluded Free Jacks Academy & Community Manager, Thomas Grant. “Opportunities like these do not come around very often, and we are extremely grateful to Ulster Rugby for welcoming us into their backyard for a challenging match. I look forward to seeing how our player group rises to the task of taking on skillful and physical opponents such as Ulster, one in which we will only benefit from.”

The New England Men’s Independents 2024 campaign kicks off on January 6th with the Annual NCR All Stars Tournament held in Austin, TX, before the side comes together again in mid-April for a series of sessions and fixtures ahead of preparations for the Ulster tour. 

The New England Independents will take on Ulster Academy on the 16th of May at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast with kick-off slated for 3.00pm. The tour will also see the Independents attend a United Rugby Championship match with Ulster taking on Leinster in a big cross-border rivalry on the 18th of May. 

About New England Free Jacks: The Free Jacks are greater Boston’s explosive and excitable professional rugby team competing in Major League Rugby (MLR), the premier North American professional competition, representing all the greatness of the six New England states on and off the field. The Free Jacks aim to create unforgettable in-person experiences and deliver dynamic digital content that delights and excites fans as a community-centric, world-class entertainment company. The core brand in the portfolio is The New England Free Jacks, the humble, hard-working, free-spirited MLR Champions. We never forget that life is better together, on and off the pitch. For more information, please visit

About Free Jacks Academy: The Free Jacks Academy is a long-term, systemic approach to rugby development through year long identification, training, and enhanced competition programs and periodization. The Academy’s goals are 1) to narrow the gap between amateur rugby participants and the professional / international game; and 2) to dramatically increase the number of participants playing the game in New England. The Free Jacks Academy operates 13 Regional Training Groups that collaborate with rugby infrastructure (clubs, school, state-based organizations), as well as competitive academy teams at the U18 (Junior Jacks) and U23 (Independents) levels for both women and men to deliver on our mission of enhancing the rugby experience for those that currently play and to also increase the number of participants in the game. For more information, please visit



Thomas Grant

Free Jacks

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