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RFCLA name team for Anthem as they look for back-to-back wins

Stokes2
1 day ago

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles have announced their starting line-up for their match against Anthem RC on May 18, 2024, 4 pm PST (7pm EST) at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

RFCLA are looking for their second consecutive win after a thrilling 29-26 away victory against the Dallas Jackals. RFCLA are only 11 points away from the fourth playoff spot with seven matches remaining, with this match being another must-win for the Club.

Inside center James Stokes said RFCLA are going into the match with “huge respect” for their opponents, with Anthem’s place on the standings not representing their play in the 2024 competition. RFCLA have a 2-6-1 record and Anthem are 0-10.

“They look better every game they play,’ said Stokes. “We know they’re going to be incredibly up for the game.”

Stokes, who hails from Mansfield, England, started playing rugby at age 13. Born on Nov. 19, 1991, he played for several professional clubs before making his way to the legendary London Irish RFC. Stokes played there for four seasons. The 6’ 0” 210 lbs center is excited about playing in the expanding MLR, and thinks rugby has enormous growth potential in the US.

“I think Americans do sport better than anyone else in the world,” he said. “There has been a lot of resource and investment into [rugby] to date, which is now getting global support. If the American Rugby community continue to get behind rugby, I feel like the Americans will be able to do a lot more [with rugby] and have a bigger potential footprint.

The US has long been regarded as the “sleeping giant” of global rugby, and Stokes believes American fans are waking up to the sport’s qualities. “The pace of the game, the nonstop nature of it — it’s so pleasing to the eye when you are in the stadiums,” he said. “When the Americans take hold of it, it’ll grow by leaps and bounds.”

Since arriving in Los Angeles, Stokes has enjoyed imparting his rugby wisdom on his American teammates. “I bring a knowledge of the game,” he said. “I learned from some of the best coaches in the world at London Irish.”

James Stokes

Stokes’ knowledge and instincts have helped lead RFCLA’s backs to some inspiring breakaway runs in recent weeks. While the pace of MLR rugby is not the same as it is in England’s Gallagher Premiership, Stokes thinks the athleticism of American rugby players helps raise their overall game.

“It’s only going to take time for them to catch up, and it’s exciting to know what is installed”, he said.

RFCLA have come to be known for their “expansive” playing style — knowing when to pass out wide to the backs and when to keep the ball close to the pack — and that they are “learning the best time to attack.” “We want to score from anywhere,” he said. Against Dallas, they did, with No. 8 Jason Damm scoring a hat trick.

After celebrating the win over the Dallas Jackals last week, Stokes and his teammates knew there was still much work to be done. “We’re our biggest critics. We allowed Dallas into the game. We’re losing games rather than other teams beating us.”

Stokes is pleased that younger teammates reach out to him for advice during the week, on and off the field, and thinks the team’s mental fortitude will help get them where they need to be, which showed when RFCLA were down to 14 men against the Jackals.

“You’re a professional,” he said of his teammates’ ability to bounce back. “If you don’t have that mindset, you shouldn’t be there.” He noted that some of RFCLA’s younger players, who have had to replace injured veterans, don’t yet have the experience to handle the pressure easily, but have repeatedly shown they are up to the task. “You’re asking boys who have never played a season to start and perform at the highest level they can,” he said. “There’s a belief mindset” that the team needs to maintain going forward this season, he said.

RFCLA have made some changes to their starting XV this week: Reegan O’Gorman replaces Ben Mitchell at lock (No. 4); Jordan Chait replaces injured Dan Hollinshead at fly-half (No. 10); James Stokes moves to inside center (No. 12) and Seth Purdey comes in at outside center (No. 13). Brooklyn Hardaker starts on the open-side wing (No. 14) and Andrew Coe comes in at full-back (No. 15). Center Jason Emery is serving a suspension after receiving a red card against Dallas.

RFCLA’s starting lineup for May 18, 2024, against Anthem RC:

1. Dane Zander (Prop)

2. Ben Strang (Hooker)

3.Alex Maughan (Prop)

4. Reegan O’Gorman (Lock)

5. Theo Vukasinovic (Lock)

6. Mike Amiras (Flanker)

7. Matt Heaton (Flanker/Vice Captain)

8. Jason Damm (No.8)

9. Niall Saunders (Scrum Half/Captain)

10. Jordan Chait (Fly Half)

11. Jack Shaw (Wing)

12. Jason Emery (Inside Center)

13. James Stokes (Outside Center)

14. Brooklyn Hardaker (Wing)

15. Andrew Coe (Full-back)

Reserves:

16. Bruce Kauika-Peterson (Hooker)

17. Wilton Rebolo (Prop)

18. Conor Young (Prop)

19. Max Katjijeko (Lock)

20. Semi Kunatani (Flanker)

21. Tas Smith (Scrum-half)

22. Matt Anticev (Back)

23. Austin White (Back)

Saturday’s match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 2 and streamed live outside of the US on The Rugby Network, at 7:00 pm EDT (4 pm PST).


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