SAN DIEGO, CA — With Major League Rugby (MLR) set to make its debut in late April, the San Diego Legion, the new league’s sole California franchise (for now), held a two-day combine near the Legion’s training facilities in Carlsbad, CA. It was a low-key opening to the team’s beginnings, with a turnout of around 17 players – most of which were locally based.
The sunny, 75°F day provided a perfect backdrop for the various first-day skills assessments and second-day strength & conditioning assessments. Considering what the conditions were like in MLR towns Houston, Austin, and New Orleans during their event, the Legion should be ecstatic that the bomb cyclone/polar vortex/hard-freeze happenings had no grip on the southwest.
Looking at the combine a little bit closer, 10 of the players present appeared to be potential backs. The other seven had potential as forwards. After some general passing skills and ball handling drills as a single group, they split into position-specific drills for backs and forwards. The forwards focused almost completely on scrum mechanics with plenty of body positioning practice and sled work. There was a bit of tackling and ruck mechanics to fill in the blanks, too, but the Legion’s coaching staff seemed keen on observing the participants’ body positioning abilities, above all else.
Meanwhile, the “backs” group immediately went into running basic passing lines at speed before getting into kicking and field awareness drills. As expected, body mechanics were much less of a focus for the backs. The focus on accurate passing and precise kicking abilities.
Although the combine itself was rather benign and mainly focused on basic skill drilling and rugby mechanics, the purpose of the event was not to fill-in several positions because of a lack of depth in the Legion’s squad. San Diego’s roster has already started to make itself known thanks to USA Rugby’s website, revealing players like Ryan Matyas and Mikey Te’o, neither of whom were surprise signings anyway, and the reporting of signings like Tadgh Leader from the 42’s Murray Kinsella. By the time the team officially launches it’s profile, as most of the other MLR teams have already done, the Legion’s squad should be closer to match-worthy than not.
A few people across Facebook and Twitter spheres have questioned the Legion’s decision not to go overtly public with the combine’s details, and to a certain extent I can understand why. A new team in a new league could do with some locally-drawn talent in its roster. However, I am of the opinion that the San Diego roster, when released, will not differ all that severely from the San Diego Breakers of the PRO Ruby era. (Can you call one year an era?) If that’s the case, then the necessity for a large scale combine would be unnecessary.
With former USA Eagle 7s Captain Matt Hawkins still at the center of the Legion’s operations, and with much more autonomy than what he, Ray Egan, and the San Diego staff had during PRO, San Diego’s future looks to be in good hands, as we not-so-patiently crawl towards MLR’s opening weekend.
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