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MLR Expansion Draft: Houston SaberCats

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MLR Expansion Draft: Houston SaberCats

With the departure of the Colorado Raptors from Major League Rugby, the Houston SaberCats havevthe only rugby specific venue in Major league Rugby.

The SaberCats finished in 7th place in 2018 with a 1-7 record, in 7th place with a 6-10 record in 2019 with most of the wins coming in May and June after a coaching change. The team was competitive in 2020 but finished in 12thplacewith a 1-4 record.

The age range of the team's 33 players is from 19-34. Seven are 31-34 (OseaKolinisau34, Taylor Howden, Rob Meeson, Sam Windsor (May) 33, Diego Magno, Zach Pangelinan, Tim Stanfill31). A significant number of the team (18) consists of players from 19-25 (Val Lee-Lo, Matias Freyre, Nicholas Solveyra, Tim Cadwallader, Malacchi Esdale, CJ Burke, Joe Kelly, Gabe Romero (May) 25, Zach Short, Adriaan Booysen (May) 24, Victor Comptat23, Charlie Connolly, Mathew Faoagali22, Jake Christmann, Kieran Farmer 21, Zack Godfrey, Thomas Morani19). The remaining 8 players are 26-29.

The team appears to need another proven try scorer in the backs, an additional young tall lock, and another back row player to increase depth. Kieran Farmer is a young talented player at fullback, wing, or flyhalf, but at some point, the team will look for another versatile back with both OseaKolinisau and Zach Pangelinan in their 30s. Matias Freyre has also played both center and fullback.

The front row starters have Valdemar Lee-Loat Loosehead prop with Argentinan Nicolas Solveyra a reserve. Charlie Connolly(Ireland) starts at tighthead prop with Boyd Wiggins(Zimbabwe) a reserve and a spot starter at hooker. ArgentinanDiego Fortuny starts at hooker with Tim Cadwallader(New Zealand) the main reserve, with Gabe Romero also playing in one match as a reserve.

The SaberCatshave6'5" South African Kyle Breytenbach and 6'8" Victor Comptat paired at lock, with Rob Meesona reserve or as a rotational starter, and Australian Van Stewart as a reserve.

The tight five brings international experience and is a strength in set pieces for the team.

Rounding out the forwards are Australian flanker Luke BeauchampCecil Garber, who played with the USA Selects and San Diego Breakers, Uruguay international Diego MagnoAdriaan Booysen(Namibia), and Mathew Faoagali, who played in the Sydney Shute Shield.

Halfback starters include South African DeWet Roosat scrumhalf and the team's captain, with Australian and U.S. eligible flyhalf and one of the leading MLR scoring leaders, Sam WindsorThey are backed up by former USA U20s Jake Christmann and by Zachary Short.

The team brought in several new centers with South African Tiaan Loots starting primarily at inside center, with Taylor Howden also gaining a couple of starts. Former Argentina Sevens player Matias Freyrestarted primarily at the outside center with a couple of starts at fullback. His power and flair proved him to be a scoring threat. Argentinan Thomas Morani also had a couple of starts at the outside center. Max Tacket, who made several appearances last season, did not play.

In the back three, Malacchi Esdale started at #11 but missed a match while he was playing for the USA Falcons Sevens side. The speedster is also a scoring threat. Former Eagle Tim Stanfill also gained a start at #11, but usually entered matches later from the reserves. Zach Pangelinan started three times at #14 and one time at #11, with Kieran Farmer starting twice and having two other appearances as a reserve. Fijian Olympian Osea Kolinisau started three matches at fullback and was a reserve for another. Zack Godfrey, an English utility back who can play center, wing, or fullback and  Joe Kelly, a wing who also made some appearances last season, did not play this season.

Campbell ‘CJ’ Burke was a reserve for the first match of the regular season and likely signed a short-term contract. This leaves two players that will not be protected for the expansion draft. That may be Gabe Romero, who was injured last year and was selected for the reserves at hooker for one match in 2020. He is also 5'8", which is short for the position and is one of four players that can play hooker. The team also has a surplus of wings and Joe Kelly, who did not play during the regular season, moved to Houston to take a position in the energy industry and will not be relocating. That makes him a logical choice for the unprotected list.

DJCoil Rugby articles by Doug Coil are also available on Facebook. Other Social Media sites to follow or subscribe include TwitterInstagram, and YouTube for interviews.