Seattle Seawolves' 2020 Forward Pack Is Loaded

The best teams tend to stay on top because they constantly keep improving, maintaining the gap between themselves and the rest of the pack. 

In the case of the Seattle Seawolves, it appears to be no different. The two-time defending MLR champions haven't rested on their laurels this offseason, instead adding even more pieces to what's already a great team. 

The bulk of the team that won the 2019 championship will return for 2020, which figures to serve the Seattle outfit well with regards to leadership and continuity. 

The new boys will likely fit in seamlessly to a team that has set the standard for American professional rugby. 

Here's a look at the current roster of forwards three weeks out from Round 1:
(Don't worry, we'll get to the backs next time!)

Djustice Sears-Duru | Prop

Quite the Globetrotter, Ontario-born Canadian Djustice Sears-Duru has played professional rugby for the Leicester Tigers of the English Premiership, North Otago of New Zealand's ITM Cup, the Glasgow Warriors of the Pro14, and then the Ealing Trailfinders of England's RFU Championship. 

On top of that, Sears-Duru has 49 international caps under his belt for Canada, including appearances in both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. 

Jake Ilnicki | Prop

Like fellow mate Sears-Duru in the front row, Ilnicki is also a world traveler. The sturdy Canadian prop from British Columbia has played professionally for the New South Wales Country Eagles in Australia, the Manawatu Turbos in New Zealand's ITM Cup, Northampton and Newcastle in the English Premiership, and Yorkshire Carnegie in England's RFU Championship. 

Ilnicki has also amassed 36 international caps for Canada, and in 2015 and in 2019 represented his country at the Rugby World Cup. 

John Hayden | Prop

Huge 6'2, 275 lb prop John Hayden is a former High School All American from Fallbrook, CA who also played at Central Washington University and for the Seattle Saracens before finding his way onto the Seattle Seawolves. 

Hayden has represented the USA Selects XV, most recently at the Americas Pacific Challenge last year. 

Kellen Gordon | Prop

A native of Washington, prop Kellen Gordon has been a staple in the Seawolves lineup each of the past two seasons. In his youth, Gordon played for Redmond Rugby Club, the Eastside Axemen, and the Washington Loggers before moving on to play at Central Washington University. 

He also went abroad to Canterbury, New Zealand in 2010 as part of Canterbury's International High-Performance Unit. 

And don't let Gordon's position in the front row fool you. The big man was a part of the Seattle Saracens 7s team that won three consecutive USA Rugby 7s National Championships from 2013-2015, as well as the Serevi Selects that won three straight Las Vegas Invitationals from 2013-2015. 

Tim Metcher | Prop

Australian prop Tim Metcher represented his native country in the 2011 Junior World Championship, and has competed twice against the British & Irish Lions, both on the Lions 2013 tour to Australia. 

Metcher played for the Melbourne Rebels of Super Rugby from 2015-2017 before moving to Seattle, where he's been a boost to the front front row the past two years. 

Mike Shepard | Hooker

Indiana native Mike Shepard played his collegiate rugby first at Indiana University, and then at the University of Utah, where he became a Collegiate All American in 2012 and 2013. 

Shepard has also represented the USA U-18 and U-20 National Teams, as well as the USA Selects XVs, competing in Ireland, New Zealand, Wales, and Kenya. 

Stephan Coetzee | Hooker

One of the MLR's best hookers in 2019, Coetzee was right at the forefront of Seattle's accomplishments a year ago. The rock solid South African has played internationally at the highest professional level, accumulating 21 Super Rugby caps and another 18 in the Pro14, representing the Stormers, the Cheetahs, and the Kings along the way. 

FP Pelser | Lock

6'6, 250 lb second rower FP Pelser is a big, young South African with an impressive resume already. Having won three age-grade Currie Cup titles at Western Province and at the Golden Lions, Pelser moved up to senior Currie Cup side Griquas, where he eventually won the 2019 SuperSport challenge. Aside from Super Rugby, the Currie Cup and the SuperSport Challenge are the two highest levels of professional rugby in South Africa. 

Jeremy Lenaerts | Lock

Jeremy Lenaerts is a big, strong Belgian who represented Belgium at the U-17, U-18, and U-19 levels before moving to play rugby in France, where he suited up for Rugby Club Narbonne. 

After enrolling at Central Washington University, Lenaerts became a Collegiate All American in 2017. Since then, he's played for the San Fransisco Rush of the PRO league, and the last two years for the Seattle Seawolves, becoming a regular in the squad. 

Taylor Krumrei | Lock

6'5 lock Taylor Krumrei didn't begin playing rugby until his senior year of high school, but since then has developed into a heck of a player. Following a four-year career at the University of Oregon, Krumrei joined the Seattle Saracens for two years before ultimately signing on with the Seawolves. He's been another steady presence in the Seawolves pack the past two years. 

Brad Tucker | Lock/Back Row

2019 MLR MVP Brad Tucker was superb for the Seawolves a year ago. The versatile forward has played for three different teams in New Zealand's Mitre 10 Cup, including Waikato, Taranaki, and Manawatu. His addition to the Seawolves pack has been massive, and perhaps he can gain residency and find himself on the USA Eagles one of these days. 

Eric Duechle | Back Row

Flanker Eric Duechle, from Erlanger, Kentucky, has been well-known on the USA rugby scene for some time now. He won the 2012 D1 National Championship with Belmont Shore, where he played until 2015, and then spent three years with the Seattle Saracens. He's also got three 7s national titles to his name (2012, 2015, 2019) and captains the United States Air Force team, which he's been apart of since 2013. 

Juan Manuel Leguizamón | Back Row

Loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamón is without question one of the greatest Argentinians to ever play the game. His 87 caps rank second all time in Argentina, and he's one of just a handful of players to ever compete in four World Cups (2007, 2011, 2015, 2019.) 

He's been a world class back rower for the better part of two decades now, representing some of the best teams in the world, including the London Irish, Stade Francais, Lyon, and the Jaguares. He's one of the monumental signings of this offseason, and despite his 37 years of age there's no doubt he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. 

Nakai Penny | Back Row

Young Canadian flanker Nakai Penny hails from British Columbia, where he was a standout player for his high school side the Pen High Lakers, as well as the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. While at UBC, Penny and his team won the B.C. Premier League three consecutive years from 2015-2017, and placed third at the 2015 World University Championships. 

He was a strong contributor for Seattle each of the past two seasons, and at age 23 is only going to get better and better. 

Riekert Hattingh | Back Row

One of the most dominant players in the whole league, South African-born, American-qualified No. 8 Riekert Hattingh has been the man since joining the Seawolves in 2018. Back in South Africa, he represented the Golden Lions and the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup before shipping off to Texas in 2015 to join the Austin Blacks. He then joined the Ohio Aviators for the 2016 PRO rugby season. At just 25 years old, Hattingh is sure to see a number of USA Eagles caps come his way moving forward. 

Vili Toluta'u | Back Row

With his unmistakable afro, Hawaiian back rower Vili Toluta'u is one of the more recognizable figures across the MLR. However, it's not just his hair that catches peoples eyes; it's his all around game. Toluta'u is a great success story of a player who's gone up through the entire USA Rugby system. 

As a high schooler, he played for the Maui Warriors, where he was recognized and selected for the High School All Americans. He then enrolled at Central Washington University, becoming an absolute force in college rugby and earning selection to both the Junior All Americans and the Collegiate All Americans. 

Following his time in college, Vili joined the Seattle Seawolves, and has since played for the USA Rugby Selects and the USA Rugby Falcons. In 2018, he earned his first full Eagles cap in a 42-17 win over Canada, and then a couple of weeks later won the MLR Championship Series MVP award after helping the Seawolves to their first MLR title. 

Star All Black Ardie Savea Considering Switch To Rugby League

All Black loose forward Ardie Savea has floated the prospect of a shock move to rugby league, saying cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams inspired the idea.

Six Nations Round 3: What Did We Learn?

France outplayed Wales in a thriller to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive, while England beat Ireland after a dominant first-half display, and Scotland blanked winless Italy in Rome.

Six Nations, MLR, & Life U Bouncing Back: 10 Monday Notes

France established itself as one of the world's best, the MLR proved once again that 2020 is anyone's year, and the Life Running Eagles restored order at the top of D1A rugby. 

Woodlands Youth Rugby One Of The Nation's Best

If you don't know, well now you know: the Woodlands Youth Rugby club is among the best programs in the entire country, and if you need any more proof, look no further than its accomplishments over the past weekend. 

Making Predictions: Six Nations & Major League Rugby

Looking ahead to this weekend, we'll have another jam-packed couple days of rugby, particularly with Rounds 3 of the Six Nations and Major League Rugby highlighting the action. 

Danny Cipriani's Heartfelt Message & Powerful Story

While strides have been made to address mental health and well-being in and outside of the world of rugby, most all of us can probably agree we still have a ways to go. 

Alun Wyn Jones: "There's More Pressure From Playing At Home"

Wales have not lost at home in the Six Nations since February 2017, something that will increase the pressure when they host France in the championship on Saturday, according to Welsh skipper Alun Wyn Jones.

Eddie Jones Reshuffles England Lineup For Huge Ireland Match

England have reshuffled their back division for Sunday's pivotal Six Nations clash against Ireland at Twickenham, with coach Eddie Jones moving Jonathan Joseph to the left wing and Elliot Daly returning to full-back.

James Haskell Set For MMA Professional Debut

Former England rugby union international James Haskell will make his professional mixed martial arts debut in London on May 16th, it has been announced.

Four BOLD Predictions For The Weekend

Looking ahead to the upcoming weekend of rugby, there are a number of huge fixtures on tap. Major League Rugby moves into its third round, the Six Nations resumes, and collegiate rugby marches on through the teeth of its season.