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MLR Expansion Draft: Rugby ATL

irish rugby tours

MLR Expansion Draft: Rugby ATL

Rugby ATL had a 2-3 record during their inaugural MLR season. The team was developed with an emphasis on young talented players. Many had ties to Life University with several additions from South Africa.

Many of the team's athletes played in the American Rugby Premiership as part of their Academy team, 404 ATL. That provided additional high-performance opportunities.

Editor's Note: Our list of unprotected players is our list alone—not an official team list of unprotected players but our speculation based on what we know.

Of the 36 players on the roster, only three are either 30 or 31 years old (Duane Aholelei, Zac Mizell31, Kurt Coleman 30). Seventeen players are 22-25 (Alex Maughan, Martini Talapusi, Jason Damm, Kurtis Werner, Sean Coughlan, Maciu Koroi, Julian Montes 25, Vili Helu, Bill Bukofuka, Zach Young 24, Harley Wheeler, Eamonn Mathews, Johan Momsen, Duncan Van Schalkwyk 23, Chance Wenglewski, Rory Van Vugt 22). The remaining 16 players are 26-29.

Both Chance Wenglewski, a USA National Team loosehead prop, and Ireland's Cronan Gleeson were the preferred starters. Jamie Ferrante was the reserve loosehead, with Tongan Duane Aholelei starting twice and Julian Montes a tighthead reserve. Sam Chaney did not play during the regular season.

Alex Maughan, another Eagle, was the starting hooker with Amro Gouda a reserve. South African Life University Coach Neethling Gericke also played one match as a reserve.

South Africans Johan Momsen and Stefan Willemse started four matches with Canadian international Conor Keys playing in five matches, starting twice. Momsen was a dynamic addition in the lineout and at the breakdown.

Flankers included team captain and Canadian international Matt Heaton at openside with former USA National Team player Harry Higgins also starting a match. South African Marno Redelinghuys, who can also play lock, started twice at blindside. Jason Damm and Vili Helu also started and played as reserves. Paris Hollis did not play during the regular season.

Ross Deacon made four starts ar No.8 with Tongan late-season addition Bill Fukofuka also starting one match and Maciu Koroi appearing once as a reserve.

The starting halfback combination was scrumhalf Duncan Van Schalkwyk, who is from South Africa but has lived in the U.S. along with his brother Zander since 2005. Hs is paired with South African flyhalf Kurt Coleman with Kurtis Werner the reserve scrumhalf. Both Eamonn Mathews and Zac Mizell did not play during the regular season.

South African vice-captain Ryan Nell and Jeremy Misailegalu were the starting centers with Sean Coughlan gaining a spot start and playing in two matches as a reserve. Zach Young did not see regular-season action.

Harley DavidsonHarley Wheeler (pictured at right, David Barpal photo), and Zander Van Schalkwyk split time as starters at wing with Austin White playing twice, once as a starter.

South African Rory Van Vugt started at fullback with Martini Talapusi gaining a spot start and as a reserve for the other matches.

Rugby ATL is looking to see how their young team develops. The team had a strong defensive and used quick hands to try and exploit defensive gaps. The team may need another experienced center in the future and perhaps another prop.

The team's six unprotected players are likely to be Neethling Gericke, a Life University Coach, and Zac Mizell, who was attending Life University. The remaining four players Maciu Koroi played in one match as a reserve with Sam Chaney, Eamonn Mathews, and Zach Young not appearing during the regular season.


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