Rugby ATL hosts San Diego Legion on Saturday, April 3 at Lupo Family Field at 7 pm ET. For those who can’t attend the match at the ‘Snake Pit,’ it will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and internationally on the Rugby Network. The match is also available in the U.S. on the Rugby Network after 24 hours.
Rugby ATL is 1-1 in the MLR Eastern Conference after a win over the Toronto Arrows to open the season, following by a road loss last weekend to Old Glory DC.
San Diego Legion also has a 1-1 record with an opening loss to Rugby United New York and a narrow comeback over Austin Gilgronis last weekend.
Rugby ATL Head Coach Scott Lawrence must feel snake bit after losing key players to injury, as well as delays in visas to bolster the squad. Last week Fijian tighthead prop Manasa Saulo joined the matchday 23, and this week South African Currie Cup hooker, Marko Janse Van Rensburg will make his starting debut at hooker. According to the MLR App, there is still a South African wing and prop, who should be joining the team as soon as their visas are approved.
Injuries have taken their toll with Kurt Coleman, likely out for the season with a broken leg. Harley Davidson sustained an opening match injury, and last week’s halfback combination of Rowan Gouws and Duncan Van Schalkwyk, is undergoing a concussion protocol, and minor ankle injury, respectively.
In addition to the hooker change, Ryan Rees gains his first MLR regular-season start at scrumhalf, with Argentinian international Batista Ezcurra shifting to flyhalf. Mark O’Keeffe, who joined the team’s matchday 23 last week, is at left-wing, with Te Rangatira Waitokia returning from a minor injury at the outside center. Rory Van Vugt shifts from left-wing to fullback.
Additional changes in the forwards include Jonas Petrakapoulos at tighthead prop, Marno Redinghuys at lock, and Daemon Torres at No8.
A replacement change could also see Eamonn Matthews, gaining his first MLR Cap, should the birthday guy, enter the match.
San Diego Legion co-head coaches Scott Murray and Zack Test appear to be following what now is becoming a Legion pattern of releasing match rosters hours prior to matches. It is hoped that will change, to better promote the sport. Minutes after this article was published, the Legion released its roster.
Four changes were made in the starters from last week’s match against the Gilgronis with the front row swapped out and Ryan Matyas starting in place of Cam Clark. The front row will feature Faka’osi Pifeleti at loosehead prop, Dean Muir returning from a minor injury at hooker, and Aaron Mitchell gaining his first start of the season at tighthead prop. An additional change was made in the reserves with Cole Zarcone poised to make his MLR debut.
What should be watched is that the matchday roster does not have a rugby-specific hooker as a replacement. In discussing this with Bryan Ray of Americas Rugby News, he indicated that Chris Baumann has had some representative experience at the position. That makes sense for this match as Cronan Gleeson, who is also a tighthead prop, is available as a replacement.
Fun fact: Chris Baumann actually played hooker in his last test for the Eagles – opposite Canada in Halifax, June 2018. pic.twitter.com/bjE7FCvIBh
— Bryan Ray (@raysrugby) April 3, 2021
Legion fans were not permitted to attend the opening match in Las Vegas and this loyal fan base enthusiastically supports the team.
With this in mind, there will be a Legion watch party beginning at 3 pm PT at Ballast Point in San Diego at the Miramar neighborhood location. I’m sure that some fans may get there early to imbibe in a Legion Lager. The Legion brigade certainly is already there preparing for battle, as well as toasting team hooker, Pete Malcolm’s birthday.
Last week’s squad against the Austin Gilgronis may be found below. An update will follow, as time permits during this holiday weekend.
Squads with Player Article Links
Rugby ATL: 1 Chance Wenglewski 2 Marko Janse Van Rensburg 3 Jonas Petrakopoulos 4 Marno Redinghuys 5 Johan Momsen 6 Connor Cook 7 Matt Heaton (c) 8 Daemon Torres 9 Ryan Rees 10 Bautista Ezcurra 11 Mark O’Keeffe 12 Robbie Petzer 13 Te Rangatira Waitokia 14 Jeremy Misailegalu 15 Rory van Vugt 16 Alex Maughan 17 Will Burke 18 Manasa Saulo 19 Conor Keys 20 Jason Damm 21Vili Helu 22 Eamonn Matthews 23 Martini Talapusi
San Diego Legion: 1 Faka’osi Pifeleti 2 Dean Muir (VC) 3 Aaron Mitchell 4 Ben Mithcell 5 Siaosi ‘CC’ Mahoni 6 Jasa Veremalua7 Psalm Wooching 8 Keni Nasoqeqe 9 Carlo De Nysschen 10 Joe Pietersen (c) 11 Bjorn Basson 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias 13 Ryan Matyas 14 Save Totovosau 15 Dylan Audsley 16 Tevita Tamelau 17 Nate Sylvia 18 Chris Baumann 19 Travis Larsen 20 Cronan Gleeson 21 Patrick Madden 22 Cole Zarcone 23 Cecil Afrika