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Major League Rugby: Dream Team Of The Regular Season

Major League Rugby: Dream Team Of The Regular Season

The Major League Rugby regular season has come to an end, here is a team of the season of individuals who have performed the best so far.

Jul 9, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Major League Rugby: Dream Team Of The Regular Season

The talent pool in Major League Rugby arguably is as deep as ever, and when trying to do the the near-impossible task of selecting the best 15 from the regular season that just concluded you begin to realize just how deep that pool is this year.

But alas, the 15 men who appear on FloRugby’s Dream XV for the 2024 MLR season have thoroughly deserved their spots on the list. 

It’s a quiet period in the MLR right now with regular season recently concluding, the international break in full swing and the MLR playoffs set to get going on the weekend of July 20.

After 18 weeks of grueling rugby featuring some of the best of the best playing club rugby in the United States, it’s time to show a little love to those who provided the shock and awe in a great MLR regular season over the course of the past few months. 

Here’s a look at the XV who shined the most this past MLR regular season:

15.  Davy Coetzer, Houston SaberCats

He's the string-puller behind one of the most lethal attacks in the MLR and a major piece of the team holding the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed entering this month’s playoffs. 

He's also one of the many South African players on coach Pote Human’s team (earning it the nickname of the “SaberBoks”).

Coetzer - also frequently able to do damage at fly-half - tallied five tries and 74 points as one part of Houston’s stacked backs, who helped Houston tally the most tries (66) of any team in the MLR.

14.  Michael Manson, Utah Warriors

It was a bit of a disappointing season for Utah as a whole, as it missed the playoffs, but it was by no means a down year for Manson. The 23-year-old New Zealander finished as the league’s leader with 14 tries, despite only playing in 12 matches. 

Wickedly quick and agile, his brace against Rugby FC Los Angeles in Week 18 in front of over 10,000 fans at America First Field in suburban Salt Lake City, was a great way for him to end his stellar first season in MLR after coming over from New Zealand’s provincial ranks.

13. Jade Stighling, Seattle Seawolves

An instant hit as a try-scoring threat for a team that scored plenty of them, the 31-year-old Stighling signed in Seattle in the offseason after a long career in his native South Africa, notching five tries in his first five matches with the Seawolves. He finished with 10 scores this season, despite playing in only 12 matches. 

Full of pace, his average of 3.1 defenders beaten per game (per the MLR’s end-of-season stats) in combination with his try-scoring numbers, have only solidified his status as one of the top wings in the league.

12. Wayne van der Bank, New England Free Jacks

New England needed other stars to emerge after a slew of midseason injuries threatened to derail its plans for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and van der Bank delivered for the defending MLR champions by taking a major step forward in his third year with the Free Jacks. 

The South African finished the regular season with 10 tries, coming up huge for the East regular-season champions in the wake of season-ending injuries to difference-makers John Poland and Wian Conradie, and he’ll try to keep up that form with New England as it seeks to become the second MLR team to repeat as league champion.

11. Taniela Filimone, NOLA Gold

Let’s face facts - NOLA doesn’t get to host its first playoff match in club history and play in its first playoff match at all, for that matter — without Filimone. 

In one of the best transactions of the preseason, the Gold acquired the 25-year-old Tongan in a trade with the New England Free Jacks for just salary cap considerations and a third-round pick in the MLR Collegiate Draft. 

All Filimone has done since then is score 11 tries in his first season in the Bayou, establishing himself as one of the MLR’s most dangerous attacking players in the process.

10. Mack Mason, Seattle Seawolves

The league’s regular-season scoring champion with 156 points to his name, the 28-year- old Aussie had the best season of his pro career in his first year with Seattle, having previously played in the MLR with the Austin Gilgronis. That team folded following the 2022 season. 

The former New South Wales Waratahs No. 10 in Super Rugby had multiple clutch kicks for the Seawolves (see his match-winning, go-ahead penalty against the Dallas Jackals in Week 6, for instance) and was a reliable option for a spot kick, adding on many times to Seattle’s place as the highest-scoring team in the MLR (498 points) in the regular season.

9. Andre Warner, Houston SaberCats

A strong distributor and facilitator, Warner finished among the MLR’s leaders in passes (692), even with missing two games. With seven tries to go with that, the South African and former Bulls and Lions scrum-half has earned his status as one of the league’s top all-around players.

Often the key to unlocking Houston’s lethal attack, Warner plays a massive role in ensuring the SaberCats’ attacking engine runs smoothly, and he’ll stay that way with the target on Houston’s back in the playoffs.

8. Semi Kunatani, Rugby FC Los Angeles

The former Olympic gold medalist (with Fiji’s sevens squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics) and the Rugby World Cup veteran was a high-profile offseason signing for Los Angeles’ first MLR club in two years. And, he delivered, scoring 10 tries at the age of 33, as the ex-Toulouse and Harlequins man frequently was RFCLA’s best player in the park. 

A try-scoring streak of five appearances in a row in the middle of the season is among the many reasons Kunatani is on this list.

7. Cory Daniel, Old Glory DC

An absolute workhorse in the back row for Old Glory, Daniel led the MLR in tackles with 254 on the regular season (over 30 more than the next-highest player on the leaderboard), as the former collegiate wrestler wreaked havoc on opposing sides with a seemingly endless motor, averaging 18.2 tackles per match. 

Good for the occasional score (four tries), too, Daniel will be a vital piece of The Flags’ playoff push going forward.

6. Mason Flesch, Chicago Hounds

Picked up by Chicago in the offseason’s Dispersal Draft following the folding of the Toronto Arrows, the Canada international is a versatile option for the Hounds, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time in their second season of play. 

Flesch was credited by the MLR with having 206 attacking breakdown arrivals and 116 tackles made in 14 games played, earning a MLR Best XV spot in three different weeks of the regular season. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound back-rower is enjoying a career year.

5. Frank Lochore, Utah Warriors

If the Warriors ever needed someone to come up big with a strong stop, Lochore was there, finishing only behind Daniel in the league in tackles with 221 and 13.8 per game. 

And, if the Warriors ever needed someone to take the ball and drive forward to continue a good passage of play, Lochore was right there, as well, finishing second in the league behind Kunatani with 147 ball carries. 

The future is bright for the 23-year-old New Zealand native.

4. Sam Golla, Dallas Jackals

Brilliant last season as he broke out as the MLR Rookie of the Year and earned his first spot on the All-MLR first team, Golla was great yet again, being a frequent fixture on the MLR’s weekly best XV squads when he played, and for good reason. 

An ankle injury limited Golla to just 10 regular-season matches, but the former No. 1-overall MLR Collegiate Draft pick was effective in the time on the pitch he did have, with 16.7% of his tackles being listed as “dominant tackles,” per the MLR’s end-of-season stats.

3. Darcy Breen, San Diego Legion

Named three times to the MLR Best XV team of the week, Breen saw action in 15 games for the Legion and was a key part of the defending Western Conference champions setup in the trenches. 

The Australia native and former Junior Wallabies player helped San Diego give up the joint-fewest tries in the MLR (45) as it earned the third seed in the West, setting it up with Seattle for a shot to go back to the Western Conference final. 

2. Dewald Kotze, Dallas Jackals

One of the toughest positions of the team to call, as four-time All-MLR USA Eagle Dylan Fawsitt had another excellent campaign in his own right at hooker with the Hounds; the edge goes to Kotze for not just being a crucial part of one of the most improved teams in the MLR but also the owner of a piece of league history. 

Kotze, who was called up to the Canada national team for fixtures against Scotland and Romania this month, had an 11-try haul with the Jackals, five of which came against Seattle in April to give him sole possession of the MLR’s single-game try record.

1. Jack Iscaro, Old Glory DC

Having made last season’s All-MLR first team, Iscaro showed once again why he’s arguably the best prop in the league by leading an Old Glory front line that played a big role in getting the Flags are back to the postseason. 

Hailing from the DC area and having previously starred for a college rugby powerhouse at Cal, Iscaro often put on shows for his hometown team at the front this season with strong tackling and defensive efforts that should continue.

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