Match 1 Preview: Free Jacks @ Anthem

 

When: Sunday March 3, 2024 7:00pm EST

Where: American Legion Memorial Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Watch: NBC Sports Boston (tape delay until 9pm ET), The Rugby Network (LIVE 7pm ET)

 

Match Preview:

Major League Rugby kicks off a new season this upcoming weekend, and reigning champions New England Free Jacks are off to Charlotte, NC to visit the league’s newest addition and New England’s newest conference rival, Anthem Rugby Carolina.

This will be the Free Jacks fourth full season in the MLR, and they’ll be looking to make the playoffs for the third time in a row in an Eastern Conference that has been reshaped this past offseason with the departures of Toronto and New York, who have been replaced by the Miami Sharks and Anthem Rugby Carolina. The team formerly known as Rugby ATL has since relocated to Los Angeles and made way for the Chicago Hounds to move into the Eastern Conference.

For the Free Jacks, the core of the 2023 Championship season has been retained, with the likes of Wian Conradie, John Poland, and Jayson Potroz leading the charge for another year. Some key additions have been made nevertheless in some key positions, look for Chilean captain back rower Martín Sigren and former Rugby ATL prop John-Roy Jenkinson to make big contributions in the forwards, while former Newcastle Falcons scrum-half, Cam Nordli-Kelemeti, and Kiwi utility back, Danyon Morgan-Puterangi, will add a new dimension to the backline. Most importantly, captain Josh Larsen is back from suffering a season-ending injury in 2023 and looking to lead this team to new heights in 2024.

 

Scouting

Anthem Rugby Carolina, MLR’s newest addition, was founded via a collaboration between USA Rugby and World Rugby in an effort to create a bigger pathway for American players to develop professionally before the Rugby World Cup is held in the States in 2031. The World Rugby backed team will therefore feature a large number of young US-eligible players. Among those players are Junior Gafa and Ivan Pula, both loaned to the Anthem by the Free Jacks, who will get a chance to face their parent club this weekend.

Anthem has also signed a few MLR veterans and foreign players for 2024 to complement their young prospects. Some names that stand out amongst that latter group are veterans like prop Joe Apikotoa, former ATL winger Te Rangatira Waitokia, and former Utah fullback Cliven Loubser. Keep an eye out also for former USA Sevens player David Still, and North Harbour fly-half Oscar Koller.

 

All time against Anthem RC

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