Rugby United New York: a New York Mentality
September 8, 2020 - Major League Rugby (MLR) News Release
Rugby United New York's 2020 began and ended in defeat. Between their losses to New England and San Diego, Greg McWilliams' team racked up victories over Austin, ATL and Houston, leaving them 3-2 when the MLR season was drawn to a close.
As the long run-in to 2021 continues, RUNY have been proactive in this extended offseason, signing and resigning players to join their journey. So far, the likes of Dylan Fawsitt, Hanco Germishuys, Troy Lockyear, James Rochford, Kyle Sumsion, Harry Bennett, Will Leonard, Connor Wallace-Sims and Rob Irimescu have been announced as returning to carry on where they left off this Spring.
The team's signings have been impressive too, bringing in former New Zealand 7s player Fa'asiu Fuatai, Fiji 7s star Apenisa Cakaubalavu, former Fiji U20 tighthead prop Samu Tawake, New Zealand-born USA age grade player Connor McManus, Samoan international prop Zak Taulafo and Brazilian international frontrow Wilton Rebelo.
Two more players returning to MCU Park in 2021 are two men that have been part of the journey since the very start. Eagle Nate Brakeley and former England star, Ben Foden, were with RUNY in 2019 when they reached the playoffs and were hoping for much of the same this year if possible.
"Obviously, we had the rough start," Nate Brakeley said. "I think after that, we were largely heading in the right direction. A lot of pieces started coming together and we were in it until the end of that San Diego game and I think if we had pulled that out, and were looking at being 4-1 with a big scalp in San Diego, we would have been all guns blazing going forwards.
"I think that while 3-2 is not a great start to the season, if you look at the performances we put in, there are all the signs there of leading to a very positive year. In that respect, I think a lot of the boys were disappointed that we didn't get to keep building on what we saw starting to come together."
In 2019, Ben Foden played every minute of RUNY's campaign and was an important part of 2020 too. Coming to New York with over 30 England Caps and having represented his nation at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, scoring two tries at the finals. Foden was successful at the club level too, winning a Premiership title in 2006 with Sale Sharks and another in 2014 with Northampton Saints.
By the time he arrived in New York, the versatile back already had 15 years of professional experience. Now moving into his third year as a New Yorker, Foden has become extremely passionate about growing the sport of rugby in North America.
"I love it," Foden said. "I didn't really know what to expect coming over here and it obviously is very different to life and rugby in the UK. What excites me is that there is definitely a hunger from the players to get better and the talent pool of players and athletes, as well as what America offers rugby as a whole is what really excites me.
"In England it is very clear, Eddie Jones and the other England coaches say that if you want to play for England, you have got to stay in England. For American rugby, having MLR, it is great for young players coming out of college, young guys wanting to be professional sportsmen, making that transition and learning from a young age.
"All rugby is geared up towards the national team. The main aim for America is to win a World Cup at some point along the lines, so having a professional league that is running well and a conveyor belt of young exciting talent coming through is a massive plus. We have seen it with Japan, their league, bringing through players and reaching a semi-final at the World Cup just gone. It is definitely the right path and America is on that."
Brakeley is a true product of rugby in the north-east. Attending St. John's High School in Massachusetts's, the lock also attended Dartmouth College before time at Cambridge University in England and then moving to New York for work and representing New York Athletic Club.
With plenty of players on the RUNY roster having lived in the area for some time, Brakeley says the New York attitude is portrayed on the field by him and his teammates.
"I think we've talked a lot about being from New York and there is an element of that," Brakeley said. "That is always grinding and hustling and if you look at what some of the boys go through on a daily basis, work their full-time job as well, there is a very workman type mentality to the team.
"We have not called that out explicitly, but I think that also just comes inherently. A lot of the boys that come in locally, they have that in their DNA and so it makes for a team that is going to grind and fight to the last."
Learn more about Rugby United New York by visiting their website or following them on social media.
Written by Joe Harvey
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