Major League Rugby Round 2 Preview

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If Week 1 taught us anything about the 2020 season, it's that the competition this year is going to be wide open. 

Last year's champs, the Seattle Seawolves, ran into a buzzsaw in San Diego, losing 33-24 to the Legion. 

The Houston Sabercats, who finished 6-10 in 2019, came out firing in their home opener, defeating the Colorado Raptors 21-12.

The New England Freejacks, in arguably the weekend's most impressive display, in-large-part dismantled one of last year's best teams, RUNY, 34-14. 

The NOLA Gold, sans 2019 star Tristan Blewett, looked on Saturday like they may perhaps be even better in 2020 after clobbering up-start Old Glory DC 46-13. 

Like fellow newcomers New England, Rugby ATL also got their MLR livelihood started with an impressive victory, staging a second half comeback to defeat the Utah Warriors, 28-19. 

And last but not least, the Toronto Arrows put the Austin Gilgronis to the sword with a forward-dominated 38-10 victory in the Lone Star state. 

It's only been one week though, and we're sure to learn a lot more in Round 2. Here's a look at the matchups ahead of this weekend, which features four ties played at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas:

New England Freejacks vs Utah Warriors 

02/16 - Las Vegas | 2:30 PM (ET) 

Can the Freejacks make it two from two at Sam Boyd Stadium to start the year? Or will the new-look Warriors bounce back from last week's loss to Atlanta?

The Freejacks got a ton of purchase in Round 1 with their dominant scrum, led by 78-cap Japanese international Kensuke Hatakeyama. 

The Warriors got off to a flying start against Atlanta last week, but tapered off towards the end. They need a full 80-minute effort on Saturday, and you can bet that flyhalf Hagen Shulte will be massively influential to the Warriors efforts. 

Austin Gilgronis vs Rugby United New York

02/16 - Las Vegas | 6:30 PM (ET) 

Two team looking for big turnarounds in Round 2, the second matchup in Las Vegas pits the Gilgronis against RUNY. 

Neither team had a whole lot of ball to work with in Round 1, so they'll both be eager to get more ball-in-hand this week. RUNY will want to unleash 54-cap French international center Mathieu Bastareaud this game and show just what he can bring to the MLR.

On the other side, the Gilgronis will want to see a marked improvement in the set piece and with the penalty count to keep themselves from getting stuck on the back foot. Austin flanker Potu Leavasa put in a whopping 17 tackles against the Arrows last week, and he'll need to once again bring a strong defensive effort to Vegas. 

Houston Sabercats vs Toronto Arrows

02/17 - Las Vegas | 2:30 PM (ET)  

A pair of teams looking to start 2-0, this one here is a matchup between two physical, efficient units. Both sides will look to get the ascendency through the forward pack before shifting the ball to talented backlines. 

Houston's staunch defensive effort in Round 1 against Colorado was a sharp improvement from last year, and defense could be the Cats calling card in 2020. Flyhalf Sam Windsor is one of the best in the league, and his work with the boot could be huge in giving Houston a chance to win. 

Toronto was superb in Round 1, dominating just about every facet of the game against Austin. All the way through the lineup the Arrows are strong, but look for lock Mike Shepard and flyhalf Tayler Adams to lead the Canadian side around the park. 

Old Glory DC vs Seattle Seawolves

02/17 - Washington DC | 3:00 PM (ET)

Old Glory had a rough introduction to Major League Rugby in New Orleans a week ago, but this time they'll be playing at home in DC. The going won't get much easier, however, as they host the two-time defending champion Seawolves, who are going to be hungry for a win following last week's defeat to San Diego. 

DC certainly showed some good flashes in the open field against NOLA, but they struggled defensively to keep the Gold in check. Against the high-powered Seattle attack, they'll need to tighten the screws. Second rower Api Nakaitani was excellent playing for Seattle a year ago, and he'll want to put in a good shift against his old teammates on Sunday. 

For Seattle, it's all about rediscovering its early rhythm. The Seawolves are typically a team that peaks later in the year, but they've still got all the tools to be a top team wire to wire. In a team loaded with talent, captain and Number 8 Riekert Hattingh will be the one that leads the squad from the front. 

San Diego Legion vs Colorado Raptors

02/17 - Las Vegas | 6:00 PM (ET)

The Legion were mighty impressive last round against the Seawolves, and they would love to knock off another Western Conference foe to begin the season. The Raptors will really want to avoid an 0-2 start to the season, but games don't come much harder than this one.

Ma'a Nonu was very good in his first game for San Diego, but that should come as no surprise. The 103-cap All Black center is one of the all-time greats, and despite his 37 years of age the big man's still got a ton left in the tank. 

For the Raptors, winger John Ryberg was certainly a bright spot against the Sabercats last week. Last year's leading MLR try-scorer found the whitewash once in Houston, and could help his side immensely if he can get there one or more times again this Sunday. 

NOLA Gold vs Rugby ATL

02/17 - New Orleans | 6:00 PM (ET)

The final game of the weekend is another matchup between a couple of 1-0 teams. NOLA and ATL squared off in the preseason, where Atlanta won 34-33, but this one is the real deal. 

The Gold were clinical against DC last weekend, both in attack and defense. In front of a strong crowd at their new "Shrine on Airline" stadium, they staged a dominant performance and put down a statement they will be East contenders. USA Eagle Cam Dolan was the hat-trick hero last week, and he could very well add to that league-leading tally this Sunday. 

Atlanta showed in their big comeback that when they keep their discipline they can defend as well as anyone. Center Ryan Nell is going to be a crucial ingredient to their success this weekend, with his strong defense and his ability to take command in the middle of the park. 

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