It’s game number six for the Houston SaberCats as their preseason schedule appears to be flying by. While other Major League Rugby teams are struggling to put a team on the field the Texan trendsetters have lined up the Chicago Lions for another exciting Saturday-night fixture at Constellation Field.
The Cats have opted for a half-dozen changes to the run-on side that overwhelmed the Capital Selects last weekend, four up front. Adam Macklin starts at loosehead for the first time having been a specialist tighthead thus far and Lindsey ‘Skeeter’ Stevens rotates in at hooker. Chris Parker tags in for Robert Meeson on the blindside flank and captain Kyle Sumsion returns, this time on the openside with Cecil Garber settling for a bench role.
It’s a full-strength backline being rolled out with Sam ‘Rook’ Windsor restored to the No10 shirt and Conor Mills beside him at inside center. Osea Kolinisau bumps out one spot, one of two Fiji Sevens internationals prowling out wide along with the fearsome Josua Vici stationed on the left wing.
An extended bench features a new name in former Arizona State football star Chris Coyle. The 26-year-old signed as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans of the NFL but saw injuries scupper his gridiron career before it started. After two seasons with the Gungahlin Eagles and the ACT Brumbies development program in Australia, Coyle joins the SaberCats as an athletic loose forward. Also named is man-mountain Chauntez Jackson, another football convert who made his rugby debut off the bench against the Capitals.
While a club side, Chicago should prove tricky adversaries who have a few notables of their own on the roster. Most Eagles fans will recognize the powerful figure of two-time World Cup attendee Andrew Suniula in the midfield. The 39-test veteran spearheads a dangerous backline that boasts speed and size.
High School All-Americans Brady Gent, Alex Dorrier, and Sondai Adjei form the spine with Dorrier a 1st Team Collegiate All-American Sevens player. Gent was a standout at Davenport University and a has attended training camps with the Eagles Sevens program. Former Indiana flyer Jake Hidalgo is a proven finisher on the left wing.
The forwards will concede significant bulk to the SaberCats, a fact shared by most teams given the giant second row pairing, but will not be short on commitment and work rate. John Luhrsen is an athletic prop and a solid loose forward unit features Penguins Invitational select Jamie Bache at openside flank. Skipper and No8 Andrew Rose boasts Scotland u21 experience and is a fully-fledged international for Zimbabwe, captaining the Sables in their World Cup qualifier against Kenya in 2013.
Kickoff is set for 7pm local time. There is no live stream but audio commentary provided by Grant Cole and Brett Mills is available on MIXLR.
1 Adam Macklin, 2 Lindsey Stevens, 3 Paul Mullen, 4 Charlie Hewitt, 5 Justin Allen, 6 Chris Parker, 7 Kyle Sumsion (capt.), 8 Matt Trouville, 9 Connor Murphy, 10 Sam Windsor, 11 Josua Vici, 12 Conor Mills, 13 Osea Kolinisau, 14 Malacchi Esdale, 15 Zach Pangelinan
Replacements: 16 Diego Maquieira, 17 Estevan Florez, 18 Chauntez Jackson, 19 Robert Meeson, 20 Cecil Garber, 21 Chris Slater, 22 Kieran Farmer, 23 Art Reyes, 24 Chris Coyle, 25 Chris Milledge
1 John Luhrsen, 2 Chris Gehring, 3 Eli Phillips, 4 Scott Weber, 5 Erik Jacobson, 6 Sean Mahon, 7 Jamie Bache, 8 Andrew Rose (capt.), 9 Brady Gent, 10 Alex Dorrier, 11 Jake Hidalgo, 12 Andrew Suniula, 13 Josh Allan, 14 Brian Rooney, 15 Sondai Adjei
Replacements: 16 Manny Aranda, 17 Spencer Krueger, 18 Phil Sagnolo, 19 Dave Whitney, 20 Quinn Maccali, 21 Kevin Lydon, 22 Alex Binetti, 23 Dan Coci
Date: Saturday, February 10
Venue: Constellation Field, Sugar Land
Kickoff: 19:00 local (17:00 Pacific, 20:00 Eastern)
Broadcasts: MIXLR (audio only)