San Diego Legion vs Houston SaberCats: 2019 MLR Preview

The San Diego Legion hosts the Houston SaberCats on Saturday, February 9 at 7 pm PT at Torero Stadium. Tickets are still available for the match, but for those who can’t attend, it will be broadcast on CBSSN as the game of the week.

The San Diego Legion enter the match with a 1-1 record after a 25-23 loss to Rugby United New York and a 17-13 win over the Seattle Seawolves last week. The Houston SaberCats are 1-0 after a 21-20 win over Austin Elite Rugby to open the season.

San Diego Legion Head Coach Rob Hoadley has made three changes to his starters, swapping loosehead prop Faka’osi Pifeleti and hooker Kapeli Pifeleti for Nathan Sylvia and Dean Muir, who move to the reserves. Conor Kearns returns after a week’s absence with Kyle Rogers moving to the bench. A change in the reserves was also made as Pat Blair returned from the Sydney Sevens.

The Legion has a strong group of forwards this season that is led by vice-captain Paddy Ryan. The matchups in the scrum should be even, while both teams will seek to control the lineouts. Both teams play expansive rugby and both have two of the league’s leading kickers that will punish errors.

Houston SaberCats head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick has made two starting changes and two in the reserves. Connor Murphy gains the start at scrumhalf and will continue in this role with Santiago Arata unavailable for the next three weeks. Josua Vici had an injury prior to the first week of the season and is healthy and the team will welcome him as a scoring threat.

The SaberCats will have the first MLR transfer of the season, as Amro Gouda joins the team from NOLA Rugby Gold. The former captain of Charlotte Rugby Club and a seasoned veteran for USA Rugby South joins the team at hooker. Kieran Farmer, who played fullback during the preseason also joins the 23 man squad.

The SaberCats have an excellent scrummaging team and will be up to the challenge in facing the Legion. They will need to minimize handling errors and control possession to starve the expansive play of San Diego. Matches are often won late in the matches where the depth of the reserves is tested. The team has a strong group of front row reserves in Amro Gouda, Jake Turnbull, and Matt Almeida. Chris Parker can play lock or flanker, and Chris Coyle is at the back row. Backs reserves include veterans Kelly Kolberg, who can play in the back three and Irving Carcamo, a center. Kieran Farmer rounds out the team at fullback or at flyhalf.

Squads

San Diego Legion: 1Faka’osi Pifeleti 2 Kapeli Pifeleti 3 Paddy Ryan (VC) 4 Lou Stanfill 5 Keni NasoqeqeChris Turori 7 Devin Short 8 Drew Gaffney 9 Nick Boyer10 Joe Pietersen (C) 11Marcus Tupuola 12 JP du Plessis 13 Jasa Veremalua 14 Mike Te’o 15 Conor Kearns 16 Deon Muir 17 Nathan Sylvia  18 Aaron Mitchell 19 Sione Tu’ihalamaka 20 Pat Blair 21 Nate Augspurger 22 Tai Enosa 23 Kyle Rogers + Head Coach Rob Hoadley

Houston SaberCats:Jamie Dever 2 Pat O’Toole 3 Charlie ConnollyRobert Meeson 5 Matt Trouville (C) 6 Luke Beauchamp 7 Cecil Garber 8 Ayron Schramm 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Joshua Vici 12 Conor Mills 13 Max Tacket 14 Malacchi Esdale 15 Zach Pangelinan 16 Amro Gouda 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Matt Almeida 19 Chris Parker 20 Chris Coyle 21Kieran Farmer 22 Kelly Kolberg 23 Irving Caramo + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant