ARE YOU READY!? The hour of sweet revenge is nigh! As previously documented, your New England Free Jacks suffered an ignominious pre-season defeat down in Virginia. Now, they return, riding high on their solid victory at the Gold Mine at the Shrine on the Airline (or whatever) versus NOLA. Will the Free Jacks prevail? Or will DC get their stuff together? The answer, dear reader, is definitively the former.

Hey, how about those Free Jacks?

The League has unjustly banned Dougie Fife for three games, which, combined with Harrison Boyle’s continuing injury, necessitated a backs shuffle. Beaudein Waaka continues at flyhalf, and Mitch Wilson comes in to full-back. As an aside, it is outrageous that Fife is banned, but no action has been taken against Robbie Coleman for his various indiscretions, including what looked like a punch.

Another piece of news is that John Poland is out. The good news is that the Jacks traded for Holden Yungert before the season to provide some depth at scrum-half, so this should not be too great a weakness. Nevertheless, Poland’s composure, box-kick, and supporting lines will be missed.

As mentioned, Boyle is still not in the match-day squad, presumably due to a continuing injury, so Waaka returns to play flyhalf. As I have exhaustively argued, Waaka should be the starter at ten, with Boyle playing back-up. While the injury to Boyle is unfortunate, it is good that Waaka is getting more time to cement his position as the starting outside-half (For the uninitiated, that's one of many names for a flyhalf; I just don't like typing flyhalf all the time. Maybe I'll use 1st 5/8th Back one of these days to really mess with you people). If Boyle comes back before the end of Fife’s suspension, then it will be interesting to see how Mathie chooses to handle the situation — does Waaka move back to fullback? Does Wilson play well enough to justify staying out back, keeping Boyle on the bench? How the Free Jacks backline settles may well be the story of the season, and it's just too early to tell.

Otherwise, the backs remain stable, with Malan and Reeves returning to play out the center pairing. The honorable bench-warmers are center Zach Bastres, a US-eligible New England draft pick, and utility back Wayne Van Der Bank, who is on a five-year(!) contract with the Free Jacks, after being signed from the Currie Cup.

The forwards are completely unchanged, and look to produce the same solid scrums, good line out ball, mauling power, and crash ball that really made the New England attack sing against NOLA. Honorable mention goes to back-row Cam Davidowicz, a Massachusetts native, who makes his way on to the bench for the second straight game.

This is a good squad, and if they have any problems rolling over DC, then there is some cause for alarm.

Tonight's antagonists: Old Glory DC

Atlanta and then Austin have blown out DC for two straight weeks. Other than Tusitala, their attack looks, well, not fabulous. Defensively, it’s also not wonderful. This will be a really rough year for DC — the good news for them is that they get to play the Dallas Jackals on April 23rd. Although, given how the two teams have been playing, even that might not be a sure thing.

This is all because of serious problems with injuries and visas, ably documented by Alistair over at Glorious Rugby. It’s not a good situation, it’s not anyone’s fault, but it has led to DC breaking their record for points conceded two weeks straight, and there is no sign that things are getting better down South. The good news this week is that big off-season signing Rohan Saifoloi comes in to play 1st 5/8ths Back for DC for the first time this season, which may go a long way to restoring the team's overall competitiveness. He is still new to their system, however, and it is unlikely that his inclusion will improve DC remarkably by tonight.

In a phrase: “room to improve” sums up the DC rugby experience. Will they improve by Friday night? Anything is possible, this is Major League Rugby, and we live in a world in which the SaberCats just beat the Giltinis, so I have no idea. Anything is possible in American rugby.

Match Information

Time: 8PM EST
Broadcast: NBC Boston, The Rugby Network.
Location: Segra Field, Leesburg, VA
Conditions: 33-37 Degrees Fahrenheit, modest wind. 0% precipitation.

Teams

Your New England Free Jacks

  1. Foster DeWitt
  2. Pieter Jansen
  3. Erich De Jager
  4. Josh Larsen
  5. Reegan O’Gorman
  6. Joe Johnston
  7. Slade McDowall
  8. Terrell Peita
  9. Holden Yungert
  10. Beaudein Waaka
  11. Harry Barlow
  12. Le Roux Malan
  13. Jack Reeves
  14. Paula Balekana
  15. Mitch Wilson
  16. Mills Sanerivi
  17. Alex Johnston
  18. Tevita Sole
  19. Stan Van Den Hoven
  20. Cam Davidowicz
  21. Sean Yacoubian
  22. Wayne Van Der Bank
  23. Zach Bastres

Old Glory DC

  1. Jack Iscaro
  2. Rob Irimescu
  3. Jake Ilnicki
  4. Api Naikatini
  5. Stan South
  6. Dom Bailey
  7. Cory Daniel
  8. Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz
  9. Danny Tusitala
  10. Rohan Saifoloi
  11. Doug Fraser
  12. William Talataina
  13. Renata Roberts-Tenana
  14. Peni Lasaqa
  15. Owen Sheehy
  16. Mo Katz
  17. Kyle Stewart
  18. Jack Carroll
  19. Fintan Coleman
  20. Luke Campbell
  21. Danny Thomas
  22. Simi Moala
  23. L.J. Koi-Larby

Sorry about the lack of podcast, there will be one this weekend. Also, the headline is not an endorsement of burning the flag, it's just a joke celebrating our great American freedoms, and making fun of DC's name.


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