Preview: RUNY v Free Jacks
By Andrew Newman
Rugby United New York’s second season in Major League Rugby begins this Sunday against expansion franchise New England Free Jacks. The first official MLR matchup between the two franchises kicks off at 4 PM EST. With both teams now on the ground in Vegas, the long wait is over, and the new season is merely hours away.
RUNY first met the Free Jacks in December 2018, only a few days removed from reporting to their inaugural preseason training camp. Cathal Marsh was perfect throughout the day from the kicking tee and sealed the win in the game’s dying moments. Although the last matchup was only 14 months ago, a lot has changed for both organizations since that time.
Dylan Fawsitt, hooker, leads the team as Captain after a tremendous 2019 season. He is bookended in the scrum by veteran props Anthony Parry and Paddy Ryan. The three form an experienced front row carrying 40+ RUNY caps. Head Coach Greg McWilliams opted for Matt Wirken and Trevor Cassidy in the engine room, pushing Nate Brakeley out to the blindside flanker. All three provide viable lineout options for the Butcher. Local favorite James Denise is set to earn his tenth RUNY cap from the openside flanker position. He scored an astonishing seven tries in his nine appearances last year. Kyle Sumsion rounds out the forward pack from the back of the scrum.
Marcus Walsh gets the nod at scrum half, combining with Marsh to create an All-Irish halfback pairing. The two looked impressive throughout training camp despite not featuring in any matches together. Will Leonard lines up at his familiar inside center position and pairs with debutant Mathieu Bastareaud in the midfield. Connor Wallace Sims and Chris Mattina feature out on the wings for the second consecutive season opener after both found the try zone in the 2019 iteration.
Mike Brown, Mike Petri, Harry Bennett, and Mark O’Keeffe all provide leadership and experience off the bench. They are joined by four young athletes looking to make their RUNY debuts. Props Jonas Petrakopoulos and Will Burke join Brown as the front row replacements. Forwards Robert Irimescu, who can play both hooker and in the back row, and Julio Cesar Rodrigo round out the reserves’ bench.
Sam Boyd Stadium hosts the match up, setting the stage for a big seven days ahead. For those not in attendance, multiple viewing options are available. Fans based in the United States can watch the game live on ESPN+ while international fans can tune into Major League Rugby’s Facebook page for a live broadcast.
15) Foden, 14) Mattina, 13) Bastareaud, 12) Leonard, 11) Wallace-Sims, 10) Marsh, 9) Walsh; 1) Parry, 2) Fawsitt©, 3) Ryan, 4) Wirken, 5) Cassidy, 6) Brakeley, 7) Denise, 8) Sumsion
16) Brown, 17) Petrakopoulos, 18) Burke, 19) Irimescu, 20) Giraldo, 21) Petri, 22) Bennett, 23) O’Keeffe
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