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RFCLA To “Play With Passion” Against Seattle Seawolves

Bruce
3 weeks ago

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles have announced the starting line-up for their match against the Seattle Seawolves in Week 17 of the 2024 Major League Rugby season on June 22, kicking off at 7 p.m. local time (PST), at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington.

RFCLA are looking to finish off the season strong with the help of their reserves. Bruce Yun will be starting at flanker this week again after making his first MLR start against the New Orleans Gold last week. “Everything I’d worked for, sacrificed for, came to fruition,” he said. “I invited 60-plus people [to the game]; it was kind of a surreal moment for me.” Yun said he was grateful to the coaches for the opportunity, and was elated when teammate Bruce Kauika-Peterson congratulated him on the field. “The other Bruce said to me: ‘Hey man, you earned it. It was awesome,” Yun said.

Yun was born in Bellflower, California, on March 6, 1996, and grew up just a few miles away in Long Beach. He started playing rugby because the father of a high school friend was English and played nearby. In 8th grade, just 13-years-old, Yun tried out for Belmont Shore under-14s. “I haven’t looked back since.” While in high school, he played for Belmont Shore Rugby Club, mostly as a prop, and was named a High School All-American and went on two Under-17 tours to England. By the time Yun went to Cal State Long Beach for college rugby, he had dropped from 280 lbs to 208 lbs, and switched to flanker. The 28-year-old is now 5’ 10” and 222 lbs, and is in the rotation as either hooker or flanker.

Like most of RFCLA’s forwards and backs, Yun is comfortable playing almost any position, which has helped the rotation this season. “These guys are all very talented,” Yun said of his teammates. “It’s not just the size and the speed, it’s the skill and execution across the board — forwards and backs.”

“At RFCLA, all the backs can kick, you can put them in any position and they’ll do ok,” Yun said. “At club level, you have guys who are specialists and play in only one or two positions.”

He thinks the main difference between club and pro level in the United States is the players’ smarts. “It’s execution under pressure, the IQ… You need to be able to recognize our defensive situation quickly or that can lead to a break.”

Bruce Yun

Yun didn’t have his eye on pro rugby from the outset. He had graduated university with a degree in Construction Engineering Management, and had a permanent job before Covid but was curious about MLR, so reached out to a friend and teammate from Belmont Shore, Mason Pederson, who was playing for an MLR team, the Austin Gilgronis. (Pederson is now with Seattle but out for the season with an injury.) They talked and Yun put what he calls his “two-year plan to get into MLR” into action. Covid interrupted everything, and Yun continued to play for Belmont Shore until earlier this year, when he got a call from RFCLA head coach Steve Brett. “It’s been amazing,” Yun said. “Giving me this opportunity…”

The Los Angeles-area local boy is aware of both MLR and RFCLA’s intentions to develop American rugby, and is proud of his performance at RFCLA so far. Just starting a match is an accomplishment, given the depth of the roster and the number of foreign veterans at RFCLA who have played top-level rugby in their home nations. “For us to be able to compete at the next level, Americans need to authentically win the roster spots,” Yun said. “I don’t want to be on the roster because I’m American. I want to earn it.”

“Let the best players play. If that means there are only a few Americans on the team, so be it. Maybe it’s a 5-to-10-year process, but I believe the best players should play,” he said. “Over time, Americans will authentically win that position.”

Yun and his teammates are going into the last two matches of the season with a similarly competitive attitude. “There’s never been a drop in belief of what we can do,” he said. “We lead the league in cards and injuries, we’ve had some bad luck, but we’ve never had a negative mindset. Nobody’s ever pointing fingers at each other, blaming each other.”

“When we come together as a team, there’s nothing we can’t do. We play the game we love and go out and play with passion.”

RFCLA have made some changes to their XV this week: Ben Strang is back at hooker (No. 2) and Alex Maughan moves back to prop (No. 3) Reegan O’Gorman is back at lock (No. 5). James Stokes and Seth Purdey replace Jason Emery and Will Leonard at inside and outside center (No. 12 and No. 13) and Jack Shaw starts on the wing instead of Andrew Coe (No. 14).

RFCLA’s starting lineup for June 22, 2024, against the Seattle Seawolves:

1. Wilton Rebolo (Prop)

2. Ben Strang (Hooker)

3. Alex Maughan (Prop)

4. Max Katjijeko (Lock)

5. Reegan O’Gorman (Lock)

6. Bruce Yun (Flanker)

7. Matt Heaton (Flanker/Captain)

8. Semi Kunatani (No. 8)

9. Tas Smith (Scrum-half)

10. Sean Nolan (Fly-Half)

11. Henry Speight (Wing)

12. James Stokes (Inside Center)

13. Seth Purdey (Outside Center)

14. Jack Shaw (Wing)

15. Rory Van Vugt (Full-back)

Reserves:

16. Dane Zander (Hooker)

17. Alessandro Heaney (Prop)

18. Connor Young (Prop)

19. Liam Antrobus (Lock)

20. Will Leonard (Back)

21. Matt Anticev (Back )

22. Sam Walsh (Back)

23. Brooklyn Hardaker (Back)

Saturday's match will be broadcast on Fox 13 + and Bally Socal and live-streamed on The Rugby Network, at 7pm local time (PST).

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