Major League Rugby 2023 Championship Preview: San Diego Legion vs New England Free Jacks

The 2023 Major League Rugby Shield Championship will be held on Saturday, July 8 at 3 pm EST at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.

San Diego Legion, the Western Conference Champions, will face the New England Free Jacks, the Eastern Conference Champions in a match of the two bests MLR teams in 2023. One of these teams will win the MLR Shield for the first time.

Fox Sports will broadcast the match with The Rugby Network streaming it internationally and domestically after a 24-hour delay.

The Legion had a 15-1 regular season record, which includes a 29-12 win on February 26th against the Free Jacks. Their lone loss, 31-26, was on March 3rd away against the Houston SaberCats. After winning the Western Conference, 32-10 over the Seattle Seawolves, the team enters the match with a 14-match winning streak.

The Free Jacks had a 14-2 regular season record with away losses to San Diego, 29-12, on February 26 and 26-24 against the Utah Warriors on March 3. After winning the Eastern Conference 25-7 over Old Glory DC, the team enters the match with an 11-match winning streak.

San Diego Legion

Director of Rugby and Head Coach Danny Lee has kept his matchday 23 the same as the team had against the Seattle Seawolves in the MLR Western Conference Final.

The team dominated the match playing fast-paced attacking rugby with a strong defense.

Will Hooley, who is retiring from playing rugby after this match, finished the regular season in 6th place for points scored (80) and in fifth place in successful goal kicking with 33. Tomas Aoake was fourth in tries scored with 11. Nate Augspurger was 1st and Mikey Te’o was first and fifth in ball carry meters with 1732 and 1563, respectively.

New England Free Jacks

Head Coach Scott Mathie has made two changes in the starters and one in the reserves since winning the EMLR Eastern Conference Final over Old Glory DC. Semisi Paea replaces Reegan O’Gorman at lock, who was injured in the match. Mitch Wilson returns to right wing from a hamstring injury with Taniela Filimone missing out on the match-day squad.

With Paea moving from the reserves last week to a starting role, Sam Fischli will cover lock as a reserve.

During the regular season, Jayson Potroz was first in successful goal kicking (53), second in points scored (131), and fifth in kicking meters (3712). Paula Balekana was tied for first in tries (14). Wian Conradie was first in ball carries (192) and fifth in tackles made (208).

Squads with Player Profile Links

San Diego Legion: 1 Faka’osi Pifeleti 2 Sama Malolo 3 Luke Green 4 Ben Grant 5 Tom Franklin 6 Christian Poidevin 7 Tupou Afungia 8 Tevita Tameilau 9 Richard Judd 10 Will Hooley 11 Nate Augspurger12 Ma’a Nonu 13 Marcel Brache 14 Tomas Aoake 15 Mikey Te’o 16 Shilo Klein 17 Nathan Sylvia 18 Chris Baumann 19 Chris Turori 20 Isaac Ross 21 Michael Smith 22 Josh Henderson 23 Ryan Matyas

New England Free Jacks: 1 Kianu Kereru-Symes 2 Andrew Quattrin 3 Joel Hintz  4 Semiisi Paea 5  Conor Keys 6 Mitch Jacobson (C) 7 Joe Johnston 8 Wian Conradie 9 John Poland 10 Jayson Potroz 11 Paula Balekana 12 LeRoux Malan 13 Ben LeSage 14 Mitch Wilson 15 Reece MacDonald 16 Mills Sanerivi 17 Kyle Ciquera 18 Cole Keith 19 Sam Fischli  20 Cam Davidowicz  21 Holden Yungert 22 Spencer Jones 23 Zach Bastres

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