The first place NOLA Gold Rugby Club host Austin Elite Rugby at Gold Stadium on Saturday, March 23. Kickoff is at 2 pm CDT (3 pm EDT) and tickets are still available. The match may be viewed on ESPN+, Cox Sports TV, and Facebook Watch.
NOLA Gold Head Coach Nate Osborne has made one change in his starters as Taylor Howden returns to start at outside center with Tristan Blewett taking a week off. With injuries to Matt Harmon and Kevin Sullivan, Kavika Peniata was added to the squad at loosehead prop from Metropolis Rugby Club. Billy Stewart, a lock, and Michael Baska, a back three, returns to the squad as reserves.
NOLA Gold enters the match in first-place and is the leading point scoring team in Major League Rugby. They also have conceded fewer points than Austin Elite Rugby. They play an expansive brand of rugby and look for areas to exploit line breaks.
Austin Elite Rugby Head Coach Alain Hyardet has made four changes in his starting XV with LaRome White gaining his first start of the season at loosehead prop. Kyle Breytenbach swaps Rikus Zwart at flanker. In the backs, Andres Vilaseca returns from international duty with Uruguay at inside center and Canadian wing Aidan McMullan gains his first start.
From the reserves, Canadian National Team Center Doug Fraser is expected to make his debut with the team.
Austin Elite Rugby has an edge in the lineouts and in turnovers won. They will need to keep possession and minimize handling errors and penalties. They will also need to take points where opportunities are presented, either by kicking for goal or through lineouts deep inside the Gold territory. The latter will be tested early as NOLA Gold has their full contingent of players back from international duty and the early season lineouts statistics may not apply.
Austin Elite Rugby has improved in recent weeks and with some team additions, should be an improved team as the second half of the season nears.
Squads with Player Article Links
NOLA Gold: 1 Hubert Buydens 2 Eric Howard (C) 3 Ben Tarr 4 Kane Thompson 5 Ignacio Dotti 6 Kyle Baille 7 Zack Stryffeler 8 Cam Dolan 9 Holden Yungert 10 Scott Gale 11 Nick Feakes 12 Con Foley 13 Taylor Howden 14 Tim Maupin 15 JP Eloff (C) 16 1Mason Briant 7 Cam Falcon 18 Kavika Peniata 19 Billy Stewart 20 Nikola Bursic 21 Moni Tongauiha 22 Michael Baska 23 JoJo Tikoisuva
Austin Elite Rugby: 1 LaRome White 2 Tiaan Erasmus 3 Juan Echeverria 4 Ben Mitchell (C) 5 Josh Larsen (VC) 6 Kyle Breytenbach 7 Moe Abdelmonam 8 Travis Larsen 9 Mickaël Romera 10 Rodrigo Sliva 11 Aidan McMullan 12 Andres Vilaseca 13 Sione Fangaiuiha14 Ratu Peni Tagive 15 Soheyl Jaoudat 16 Dominique Bailey 17 Chris Schade 18 Brendan Rams 19 Dylan Pieterse 20 Rikus Zwart 21 Marcelo Torrealba 22 Doug Fraser 23 Reece Czarnecki + Head Coach Alain Hyardet