Former Wasps Player Ross Neal Joins SeaWolves
At six foot and five inches tall, Ross Neal would certainly look more at home in the four or five jersey. Instead, the back lines up in the center's or on the wing. Deciding to move to the Seattle Seawolves in November, Neal comes to Major League Rugby with six years of experience as a professional player, most recently having played for English Premiership side Wasps.
"It was a bit of a whirlwind week when I found out I was going." Neal said, "I wasn't getting a sniff at Wasps, there were so many good players at 13 with Malakai Fekitoa and Juan De Jongh there. I messaged my agent saying to have a look and he came back saying Seattle were keen.
"I had heard that they had won the last two years, seen that they had a great fanbase, great ground and everything. It seemed pretty good. I had a day to decide if I would sign because it was getting pretty late for visas and deadlines. I spoke to my girlfriend and family and just thought I should go for it. I'm massively excited."
Starting his career with London Irish in the English Premiership in 2014, Neal has had an exceptional rugby education. Coming from the same Academy system that produced England internationals Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph, just to name two, Neal moved to second division side London Scottish for two seasons in 2016, becoming a regular in the team and securing a move back to the Premiership with Wasps.
"I like to think that experience is something I can offer there." Neal said, "Being involved for six years, playing with some great players, some British & Irish Lions, internationals and have also worked with some top coaches.
"There will be some other experienced guys out there in Seattle, but I do think the last couple of years at Wasps in particular will hopefully give me the opportunity to help in a few ways."
Good friends with former Houston SaberCats scrumhalf Connor Murphy, Neal asked his former teammate about his experiences in MLR, exciting Neal at the prospect of playing in the league this upcoming season.
"He said it was growing quickly. He also said that in the first year the standard was a lot lower than the second year, but it did improve and it was a very fast-paced league. The lads out there are quite athletic and there are good fields, allowing for a fast, flowing game, which massively suits me." Neal said.
Despite having played all of his formative rugby at center for both London Irish and London Scottish, Neal's first opportunities with Wasps came on the wing. Scoring tries regularly in that position, Neal impressed in both the Premiership and in European competition.
Making 13 appearances for Wasps in his one and a half seasons with the club, Neal comes to Major League Rugby in the search of reigniting his passion for rugby and to establish himself as one of the leading names in the league.
"In England, I've been a little bit disillusioned. It's a bit frustrating when all you are doing as a player is training.
"It starts to mentally take a toll on the way you view yourself and this move to Seattle gives me the opportunity to hopefully play some regular rugby at a good level and fall back in love with the sport," Neal said.
Neal joins the league at perhaps its most exciting time. This season will see Mathieu Bastareaud (French international), Ma'a Nonu (World Cup winner) and Rene Ranger (former All Black) all playing in MLR, making for some exciting midfield battles.
Like Neal, each of the aforementioned players are giant men, which will no doubt make for some interesting match-ups for 2020. Approaching seven foot, former Wasp Neal is much quicker than a man of his height usually is and a strong, dependable ball carrier in contact, a combination that should excite crowds across America in 2020.
"A lot of people said I should have been put in the forwards when I was younger, but luckily my dad kept me out in the backs, so I was able to make a point of difference out there." Neal said, "It's a league of big centers at the moment and I absolutely thrive on that sort of thing.
"Just to say that I'll be matched up against Ma'a Nonu, it's a great thing to challenge yourself with and Seattle have some experienced guys too. With the league being in its infancy, you pick up these big names and it is a great sign of intent from a club and the league that these guys want to come out."
Neal, perhaps unsurprisingly, is looking forward to his new challenge on the West coast. Hoping to represent his newly adopted city with pride, Neal is already aware of the opposition that his team will face and his objectives for 2020 are clear.
"For the team, obviously try and win another championship. Going off the few messages I've had, we've got a target on our backs this year and everyone is going to try and take the crown off our heads.
"Personally, I'm hoping to develop my game, get that confidence, be dominant, be aggressive, get the ball in hand and find that form I have had in patches in English rugby. Hopefully with some consistency, I can get that confidence back and be a dangerous player for Seattle."
Written by Joe Harvey
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- Major League Rugby Vegas Weekend Moves to Sam Boyd Stadium - MLR
- Former Wasps Player Ross Neal Joins SeaWolves - Seattle Seawolves
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