America’s flagship professional rugby league is just about to get underway for its second season, with plenty of mouthwatering action in store once again.
After a successful inaugural season in 2018 that saw seven teams battling for North American supremacy, the league has expanded for 2019 and has plans to expand further in 2020.
Here’s a quick guide to this year’s competition.
Last year’s seven sides – the Austin Elite, Glendale Raptors, Houston SaberCats, New Orleans Gold, San Diego Legion, Seattle Seawolves and Utah Warriors – reprise their roles and will be joined by a pair of expansion teams; Rugby United New York and the Toronto Arrows, the league’s first Canadian team.
Next season three more sides are set to join the competition – a team based in Atlanta, a team based in DC and the New England Free Jacks.
The Seattle Seawolves and Glendale Raptors will be hot favourites in 2019 after meeting up in last season’s final, a match that proved to be an instant classic and wasn’t decided until the dying minutes. Seattle took home the Shield for the first time after an inspired comeback effort, while Glendale finished with the best record after the regular season and will look to repeat that same form in 2019.
Led by the likes of winger Harley Davidson (seven tries and possibly the best name in sport) and the all-Eagle halves pairing of Shaun Davies and Will Magie, Glendale topped the competition with a +90 points differential, a +14 try differential and finished second in the competition in scoring with 30.2 points per game. Adding young flanker Hanco Germishuys and USA Sevens flyer Malon Al-Jiboori to the roster will give the side even more attacking power.
As for Seattle, the roster hasn’t seen much turnover and the side will be hoping that consistency on that front coupled with a handful of smart signings including USA Eagles Ben Cima and Roland Suniula – who joins brother Shalom in the backline – will lead to back-to-back titles sure to please a raucous fan base that sold out every home game in 2018.
Who To Watch
Last season our eyes were opened to some of North America’s premier rugby talent.
Midfield missile Paul Lasike was a headline grabber for the Utah Warriors, and his performances subsequently earned him a deal with Premiership club Harlequins in England.
One of 2018’s best performers and one of the United States’ most promising prospects will be hoping that a change of scenery leads to some silverware with the Glendale Raptors. 22-year-old Hanco Germishuys was an absolute terror for the Austin Elite in 2018, and strengthens one of the competition’s best sides.
The South African-born loose forward has been an Eagle since 2016 and will continue to make his mark as one of the competition’s elite in 2019.
Elsewhere, the most recognisable name in the competition may be former England fullback Ben Foden. The big name acquisition has a massive task ahead as he tries to lead expansion team Rugby United New York in their first campaign.
33-year-old Foden represented England 34 times and appeared for Premiership club Northampton Saints 250 times.
When And How To Watch
The 2019 season gets underway this week. The first match takes place on the 26th of January with the Houston Sabercats and Austin Elite taking the honors.
The season opener kicks off at 8pm ET and just like last year, all matches will be available on ESPN+ and streamed live on Facebook for international fans.
— Seattle Seawolves (@Seawolves_Rugby) January 19, 2019
Fans are treated to a tantalising finals rematch in week one, with Seattle and Glendale set to play on the 27th, kicking off at 10.30pm ET where no love will be lost in a match that could set the tone for the rest of the year.
Be sure to catch all the action streaming live on the Major League Rugby Facebook page.
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