How Chad London and the Dallas Jackals Are Shaping up for Their Debut Season
In December, new Major League Rugby team Dallas Jackals found out their schedule for their inaugural season as a professional rugby side.
MLR caught up with Head Coach, Allen Clarke, and Assistant Coach/Assistant GM, Elaine Vassie, to learn how the team are building for success as they enter the 2021 season.
The Jackals made history last June by making the first ever selection in the MLR Draft, just eight days after the Texans were announced as a new side for the upcoming season. Selecting former Life University collegiate All-American and two-time D1A National Champion, Conner Mooneyham, Dallas has since made a number of other signings to help establish the team in MLR.
With four picks in the draft, Phil Camm, Dallas' GM, and the coaching staff also recruited back row Tommy Clark ninth overall, center Levi van Lanen and back row Bronson Telles.
These young players will be gaining their first professional rugby alongside players that have already experienced MLR.
One player arriving in Dallas has already played in the first three seasons of MLR. Chad London was a part of the former MLR team, the Colorado Raptors, and the center is coming to the Jackals alongside Marco Fepulea'i, Robbie Petzer, Campbell Johnstone, Ryan James, Carlo de Nysschen, Kelepi Fifita, Chad Gough and Kody O'Neil.
"We have got eight other guys coming down from Colorado, so that is good," Chad London said. "It is a strong base of players and all of those guys are just genuine, hardworking guys. They have put their blood, sweat and tears into the past three seasons and they have seen how the game has grown.
"It has all changed since the start of MLR and there has been exponential growth from season to season. Now, things are changing, we have seen how things are developing, the players coming in and the way I look at it, it has become a much more professional game here in America.
"We know how the game has evolved and changed and to have that core group of guys to say that we should be doing X, Y and Z to be successful, it is going to help out the team tremendously. Those players coming from college were the best players at college and in America and could be beating teams by 40 points.
"But, when you come to that professional environment, there are older guys you are going to be playing against, more international guys that have more experience. So, we need to have those conversations where we say what things they need to do so that they can compete.
"We all want to win, that is why we play the game. We want to be successful, so I definitely think that it will help that we will have a core group of guys that can bring that knowledge from previous seasons and say what we have to do in 2021."
As much as London will be joined by the experience of his former Colorado teammates at Dallas, the Jackals have also recruited several more players with MLR experience. Peni Tagive comes to Globe Life Park after spending the past two seasons with the Austin Gilgronis.
Prop, Skyler Adams, was also signed on to the Gilgronis in 2020, while hooker, Mike Brown, and tighthead prop, Will Burke, come from Rugby United New York and fly-half, Tim O'Malley, has most recently represented Utah Warriors in MLR. Even assistant coach, Valenese Malifa, offers experience in MLR, the former USA Eagle having served the same role for Rugby ATL in their first year, while also being the Head Coach of Rugby ATL's Pathway 404 team.
Of course, Dallas have looked further afield to add some more strength to their first ever roster. Namibian international back row Wian Conradie has already represented his country at two Rugby World Cups and most recently has played professionally with Doncaster in the English second division.
Scottish hooker James Malcolm also comes with professional experience, having played for PRO14 side Glasgow, Argentinian flanker, Conrado Roura, has represented his country in sevens, whilst a Fijian trio of Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, Jonetani Vasurakuta and Josateki Degei will all offer their experienced Pacific Island skillset.
Jo-Hanko de Villiers rounds off the international signings that the Jackals have made so far, the South African a Currie Cup regular for the Golden Lions. The rest of the team's signings come in the form of young players that are still in the early days of their professional careers.
Scrum-half, Jinho Mun, had previously worked with Elaine Vassie at the Dallas Harlequins club and does have professional rugby experience thanks to time with Yamaha Jublio in Japan's Top League and international experience gained with the Korean Sevens team and will face stern competition from former Lindenwood University player and six-time All-American (in both 15-a-side and sevens rugby), Cristian Rodriguez.
Kareem Odeh comes to Dallas after winning two National Championships with Life University. Samoan lock, Theo McFarland, who has also represented his country's basketball team and Manuma Samoa in Global Rapid Rugby and will be joined in the second row by Canadian, Henry Stevenson, who has represented Canada at U20 level.
On top of the players signed for the first team, Dallas have recruited 10 players as part of the Dallas Development Players group that will develop further in the professional environment before potentially making numerous appearances in MLR and even potentially for the Eagles.
"We have got a good mixture of seasoned players, players that have been in professional environments and then a lot of youth coming in," London said. "We have got a mixture of guys coming from South Africa, the UK, and the thing that excites me with our team, is that we are not just signing a whole bunch of big names.
"We are bringing in a good mixture of seasoned guys and younger guys to kind of help each other. You have got the younger guys that bring the passion, the enthusiasm, that are new to this environment and the guys that bring the experience, who can guide the team and show the younger guys what they need to be doing on and off the field to be successful.
"So, that is the thing that excites me and then any role I can play to make the team successful, that is exactly what I will do. I am really excited for the Dallas team."
To learn more about the Dallas Jackals, visit their official website or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.
Written by MLR Correspondent Joe Harvey
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Major League Rugby Stories from January 7, 2021
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.
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