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RFCLA Team Named for Seattle Showdown this Sunday

April 12, 2024 - Major League Rugby (MLR)
Rugby FC Los Angeles News Release

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles (RFCLA) have announced their starting line-up for the match against the Seattle Seawolves on Sunday April 14, 2024, 3pm local time at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

After a tie with Old Glory DC, 22-22, away last week, RFCLA will be looking to move up the ladder in the Western Conference, which Seattle leads with a 5-1 record. RFLCA are currently at the bottom of the conference, with a 1-3-1 record. They trail Seattle by 13 points with 11 matches left in the season.

For the first time in a few weeks, RFCLA fly-half Dan Hollinshead (No. 10) will not be combatting strong winds. "It's not ideal," Hollinshead said of the weather during recent matches. "I don't like the wind; I can't control it."

Hollinshead, born in Tauranga New Zealand on June 7, 1995, began playing rugby when he was four. He played all through school in New Zealand, and then for various clubs. He has played in France, New Zealand, Japan, in some of the most competitive leagues in the world. He also played for New York's Major League Rugby (MLR) team before heading back to France.

Now he's back in the MLR, and loving his new club - and his home city. "The weather here, the beach lifestyle, it's just crazy," Hollinshead said. He has also found a rugby culture that he wasn't expecting. "I didn't know there were the numbers here," he said. "What's amazed me in the LA area is how strong the rugby culture actually is."

"I'm looking forward to playing here again this week and I hope the fans turn out and we put on a cracking performance for them."

Hollinshead will likely have good weather, although some rain is expected on Sunday. He won't be the only player doing the kicking. He and his back line have been working to share the load. "We've got great No. 9s who can kick, full backs, wingers who can kick," he said.

Kicking in rugby can seem tedious to newcomers, but Hollinshead explained the strategic necessity. "The kicks around our own 22 - they're to relieve pressure... Around halfway, we're trying to create pressure [and] isolate their back three with the ball," he said.

Hollinshead has been impressed by the development of MLR since he returned this year. He's happy with the increase in foreign players, especially fellow New Zealanders, who he thinks can continue to help develop American talent. And the Americans? "The domestic boys have gotten a lot better with years of experience," he said. "The younger boys, too. They've massively improved on 2021. I think it's awesome."

Of course, that means RFCLA will be facing off against some of the veteran and fresh talent when they play Seattle. Hollinshead said he's been preparing in particular for Mack Mason, his opposite fly-half, and that No. 8 Charles Elton will ensure Seattle's back row perform at the highest level. "We've identified about five or six of them," said Hollinshead of the opposing team's stars. "They've got a lot of firepower, and have had a great start to the season."

While RFLCA is one of MLR's newest teams - having relocated from Atlanta for this season -Seattle is one of MLR's most consistent winners. The Seawolves have won two MLR championships, in 2018 and 2019, and lost in the 2022 final.

RFCLA has its own veterans and stars now too. The match against Seattle will be flanker Matt Heaton's 50th MLR match. Prop Dane Zander was named to MLR's First XV All-Star squad after his performance against Old Glory DC (10 tackles and participating in 23 rucks). Scrum-half Niall Saunders has been named to the weekly XV twice this season.

"We know they're a bloody good team and very structured," said RFCLA Backs coach Shaun Davies. "But we know where we want to go after them. We have to be patient in our plan."

"When those spaces open up, be excited," he added.

Patience and discipline will be the most important factors for RFCLA against Seattle. RFCLA gave away several key penalties against Old Glory DC to allow their opponents to claw their way back to a tie, and Davies said they brought in a local referee to help them fix the problem this week during training.

"We've had a chat as a team," Davies said. "Everyone knows discipline will be huge for us this week. We have to be a whole lot cleaner."

"The league will be watching."

RFCLA has made some changes to their starting XV this week: Ben Strang replaces Bruce Kaukia-Peterson at Hooker (No. 2); Conor Young comes in for suspended tighthead prop Alex Maughan (No. 3); Semi Kunatani takes Mike Amiras' place at flanker (No. 6) and is replaced at No. 8 by Jason Damm. Niall Saunders starts again at scrum half (No. 9); Rory Van Vugt moves from full back to wing (No. 11). Seth Purdey starts at outside center (No. 13) instead of Will Leonard; Austin White starts at full-back to (Full-back) and Jack Shaw moves to the open side wing position (No. 14) instead of Andrew Coe, who is serving a suspension.

RFCLA's starting lineup for April 14, 2024, against the Seattle Seawolves:

Dane Zander (Prop)

Ben Strang (Hooker)

Connor Young (Prop)

Reagan O'Gorman (Lock)

Theo Vukasinovic (Lock)

Semi Kunatani (Flanker)

Matt Heaton (Flanker)

Jason Damm (No.8)

Niall Saunders (Scrum Half) - Captain.

Dan Hollinshead (Fly Half)

Rory Van Vugt (Wing)

Jason Emery (Inside Center)

Seth Purdey (Outside Center)

Jack Shaw (Wing)

Austin White (Full-back)


16. Bruce Kaukia-Peterson (Hooker) 17. Lincoln Sii (Prop) 18. Sam Buckley (Prop) 19. Liam Antrobus (Lock) 20. Max Katjijeko (Flanker) 21. Mike Amiras (Lock) 22. Tas Smith (Scrum-half) 23. Sam Walsh (Fly half)

RFCLA's match on Saturday, April 14, will be streamed LIVE starting at 6:00 pm Pacific Time on Bally Sports West and The Rugby Network

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