New England Free Jacks Side For 1st Tune-up

The New England Free Jacks are one of three new teams set to make their mark on the MLR this year, and they'll get a chance to have their first preseason game this weekend against the New England Independents. 

The Free Jacks were formed more than a year ago, but spent their first season playing in the Cara Cup against the Irish Pro14 academy sides rather than playing in the MLR. 

They've built a good-looking roster of 34 strong for this year's campaign, with 23 set to debut on Saturday. 

Here's the squad:

Up front, the Free Jacks are anchored by former Mitre 10 Rugby standout for Wellington and Hawkes Bay, Tongan Tolu Fahamokioa, and 78-cap Japan international Kensuke Hatakeyama at prop. 

Hooker Sean McNulty is the younger brother of Ireland and Rambling Jesters 7s star Harry, and has come up through the Leinster academy ranks, even featuring for the top side on a few occasions. 

The second row is comprised of massive Irish lock Conor Kindregan, who represented the All-Ireland Club XV in 2019, and Jackson Thiebs, a big American from Portland, OR who played offensive tackle for University of Montana's football team before picking up rugby post-grad with Mystic River.

Youngster Owen Hundt out of St. Edwards High School in Ohio packs down on the flank. Hundt played in New Zealand with the Dunedin Sharks in Otago's premier club competition, and has spent time with Otago's Mitre 10 set up. His fellow flanker this Saturday will be Zack Stryffeler, the former NOLA Gold man who spent in the first two years of MLR in New Oreleans. 

At the back of the scrum, No. 8 Naulia Dawai leads the way. The 8-times-capped Fijian back rower has plied his trade professionally with Otago in New Zealand, where in 2015 he led the squad in tries, and with Connacht in the Guinness Pro14, where he made over 20 appearances in his two seasons there.

Halfback John Poland has represented Ireland at both the U-19 and the U-20 level, garnering man of the match honors against Wales in the 2016 U-20 Six Nations championship. He then went on to play for Munster, getting his first senior cap in the Pro14 in February of 2018.

Flyhalf Tadgh Leader is a Connacht academy representative and former Lindenwood Lion who captained the San Diego Legion in the first season of MLR before receiving his first USA cap in the 2019 ARC.  

The center pairing is made up of Life University great and 2019 graduate Mitch Wilson, and Poasa Waqanibau, a Fiji U-20 international who has spent lots of time as a powerful player with Canterbury of the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand. 

In the back three, current UMass student and former HS All-American Danny Collins locks down one wing, while Lindenwood standout and ex-Houston Sabercat Deion Mikesell mans the other side. Joining them in the back three is fullback Beaudein Waaka, a New Zealand 7s international and the brother of New Zealand Black Ferns winger Stacy Waaka. 

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