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Damm ready to take charge as RFCLA face off against New England

Whats App Image 2024 04 26 at 1 51 59 PM
3 weeks ago

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles have announced their starting line-up for the match against the New England Free Jacks for this Sunday 'Festival of Rugby' at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.

RFCLA lost in a thrilling contest with the Chicago Hounds away last week, and with a 1-5-1 record still find themselves in the playoff race with 12 points in the Western Conference and nine matches remaining.

They take on the New England Free Jacks who lead the Eastern Conference with a 5-2 record.

Niall Saunders has been moved to the reserves bench, with Matt Heaton set to captain the team in his 50th MLR match.

Partnering with Heaton in the pack will be Jason Damm, who usually plays No. 8 but will be starting as a lock (No. 4) against the Free Jacks in RFCLA's must-win match.

Damm said the team will need to show the same “heart and grit” as they did last week, but have to get a better start. Against Chicago, RFCLA trailed 19-0 in the first 20 minutes. “We have to execute things simply and effectively — early,” said Damm.

Born in Marietta, Georgia in 1995, Damm started playing rugby in his final year in high school. The 6’ 4” 240 lbs. forward went on to play in college at Clemson University in South Carolina, and was signed by the Glendale Raptors in 2018. After his first season in Major League Rugby in 2019, he transferred to Rugby ATL, which moved to Los Angeles to become RFCLA in 2023. Damm has played twice for the US national team, the Eagles.

Damm, 29, is looking forward to playing with flanker Heaton again this week. Heaton sat out the last two matches to be with his wife during the birth of their child. Damm said Heaton’s presence should help instill discipline in the team, which gave away several crucial penalties against Chicago. The one yellow card was an improvement on the five handed out the week before, but Damm said RFCLA still need to keep working to reduce the penalty count.

“It's always a pleasure to have [Heaton] on the field,” said Damm. “Having him back is always huge. He’s a great, calm leader, leads by example. He’s also going to be a pest, making a mess of the breakdowns.”

Damm doesn’t want his teammates to dwell too much on preventing penalties and said they should instead focus on executing plays as they’ve been training to do. RFCLA need to “stay calm and controlled and think about the next job,” he said. “When those things are in your head, sometimes it's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.” RFCLA need to “retain possession,” Damm said.

Sunday’s match will be the second part of a doubleheader. The first match, kicking off at 1:30 pm local time, will feature the Eagles, the US Women’s national team, against Canada.

RFCLA has made some changes to their starting XV this week. For the forwards, Jason Damm comes in at lock (No. 4) and lock Reegan O’Gorman moves to No. 5, replacing Theo Vukasinovic; Matt Heaton returns as captain at flanker (No. 7), replacing Max Katjijeko, and Mike Amiras comes in at flanker (No. 6) for Semi Kunatani who moves to No. 8.

In the backs, Niall Saunders is replaced by Tas Smith (9) in the starting team, and James Stokes replaces Seth Purdey at outside center (No. 13). Jack Shaw switches to blind-side wing (No. 11) as Rory Van Vugt sits this match out and Brooklyn Hardaker takes the open-side wing position (No. 14).

RFCLA’s starting lineup for April 28, 2024, against the New England Free Jacks

1. Dane Zander (Prop)

2. Ben Strang (Hooker)

3. Conor Young (Prop)

4. Jason Damm (Lock)

5. Reegan O’Gorman (Lock)

6. Michael Amiras (Flanker)

7. Matt Heaton (Flanker) (C)

8. Semi Kunatani (No.8)

9. Tas Smith (Scrum-half)

10. Matt Anticev (Fly Half)

11. Jack Shaw (Wing)

12. Dan Hollinshead (Inside Center)

13. James Stokes (Outside Center)

14. Brooklyn Hardaker (Wing)

15. Austin White (Full-back)

Reserves

16. Bruce Kauika-Peterson (Hooker)

17. Lincoln Sii (Prop)

18. Alex Maughan (Prop)

19. Ben Mitchell (Lock)

20. Max Katjijeko (Flanker)

21. Niall Saunders (Halfback)

22. Jason Emery (Scrum-half)

23. Derek Adams (Back)

RFCLA’s match on Sunday, April 28, will be streamed LIVE (3:30 pm PST) on The Rugby Network and Bally Sports West

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