PHILADELPHIA, PA – With PRO Rugby’s kick off inching closer, it is time to look closely at what we know about the teams and how we think they’ll fare on the pitch. There is, or course, lots we don’t know about how this first season will go and how the rosters will or won’t gel, or how they might change from Week 1 to the final week. Let’s take a crack, though.
Ohio will be playing in the Village of Obetz, just south of Columbus. There is a clear niche that the Ohio team can fit into in that community.
Reasons for Optimism
The signing of Jamie Mackintosh might be the most valuable of all the foreign internationals. Of all the props in the competition, none has the kind of CV of Mackintosh. Penalties won at scrum-time will be a handy source of points. With Demecus Beach and Angus MacLellan, he has two promising young props to share his knowledge with.
Ohio have ended up with several players who have shown they can distribute the ball well. Taylor Howden, JP Eloff. Roland Suniula, and Dominic Waldouck all have some experience playing at a high level. Chris Kunkel will also be pushing for time at 10 or 12. It isn’t clear who will play where. My hunch is that the first week will see Eloff at 10, Howden at 12, and Suniula at 13. Waldouck simply won’t have much time with the team before the first match.
One player head coach Paule Barford is confident about is Ahmad Harajly. Harajly, who did get a shot at playing with the USA 7s at Wellington last season, will be playing fullback. This clip shows a bit of his strength. Harajly is a guy who, with strong competition and a platform, could become a star.
Spike Davis and Alex Elkins seem set to start on the wings. With one with at 6’4″ 250 and the other at 6’4″ 240 and Harajly at 15, they might end up having the biggest back 3 in the league.
Scrum-half Shaun Davies is putting his hand up as a leader early on. He and Matt Hughston, who is looking to make the 7 jersey his own, are helping to set a high standard at training. Beyond Hughston, there are several loose forwards capable of pestering at the breakdown, including Sebastian Kalm.
Reasons for Worry
While there is lots of potential in the danger of their back 3, they don’t have the proven finishers of, say, San Diego. And they don’t have the big bodies of, say, Denver. They aren’t going to bulldoze anyone, and might get bulldozed.
The combinations in the backline are intriguing, but if they take too long to find the best combination, they’ll find the season a long one.
This is a team that will get better as the season goes on. However, they will be fighting to finish with a winning record.
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