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Rugby’s back! The Houston SaberCats have started their 2020 season at Aveva Stadium. Here’s the team’s schedule and roster

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Houston, TX (KTRK) — The Houston SaberCats 2020 season is here!

The Houston SaberCats are an American professional rugby team, founded in 2017. The SaberCats are one of seven original teams of Major League Rugby (MLR). The MLR has expanded to nine teams in 2019 and will expand again in 2020 to 12 teams – or more. Since playing their first game in 2018, the Houston SaberCats have made their mark as one of Houston’s top sports teams.

In 2019, the Houston City Council approved the construction of a $3.2 million rugby stadium – Aveva Stadium. The SaberCats are excited to have played their first game at their new stadium on January 25 against their biggest rival, Nola Gold.

After the approval of Aveva Stadium, the SaberCats named JT Onyett as President of the organization in June 2019. When appointed he commented, “I look forward to building on what the great SaberCats staff and players have already started as we look toward the future. Sport is about bringing people together and AVEVA Stadium will be a community stage year-round. We will work hard to not only make SaberCats matches exciting events but also fully utilize AVEVA stadium 365 days a year to bring more sports and entertainment to Houston.”

The SaberCats will play 17 games this season, competing again teams from all around the world including Seattle Seawolves, Utha Warriors, Colorado Raptors and Toronto Arrows.

Want to go to a game? Here’s the Houston SaberCats schedule. The Houston SaberCats encourage Houstonians to learn more about rugby and to check out one of their 2020 games.



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Irish Rugby | Energia Men’s All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

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ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1A:

ROUND 3: Saturday, October 16

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CLONTARF (3rd) v CORK CONSTITUTION (7th), Castle Avenue

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WW; Cork Constitution: LL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Hawkshaw 22; Tries: Dylan Donnellan 2; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 11; Tries: Duncan Williams, Barry Galvin 1 each

Preview: You would have got long odds on Cork Constitution being in the seventh place after two rounds. With their attack yet to fire, two losing bonus points were the only consolation.

Having the Stateside trio of Conor Kindregan, John Poland and Tomas Quinlan back from playing Major League Rugby is a big boost, as it is their recent run of results against Clontarf.

Con have won their last four games against ‘Tarf, including the 2019 final, but on current form, you would have to favour Andy Wood’s men. Especially if Tony Ryan and company get on top up front.

Recent League Meetings – Sunday, May 5, 2019: Final – Cork Constitution 28 Clontarf 13, Aviva Stadium; Saturday, October 12, 2019: Clontarf 25 Cork Constitution 28, Castle Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (6th) v BALLYNAHINCH (8th), College Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LW; Ballynahinch: LL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Mick O’Kennedy 14; Tries: Mark Nicholson 2; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Gibson, Greg Hutley 5 each; Tries: Chris Gibson 1

Preview: Dublin University and Ballynahinch would have to go some to match the fireworks they produced when they last met in the capital, the Co. Down side winning 35-34 back in November 2019.

Future internationals Ryan Baird and Robert Baloucoune carved it up, the latter scoring a hat-trick of tries. Trinity have a new cult hero in prop Giuseppe Coyne, he of the Dudley Cup-winning chip-and-chase heroics.

With back-to-back losses and just one try in two matches, ‘Hinch could do with a timely lift. They have the players to achieve that, most notably tighthead Kyle McCall who is now also part of their coaching group.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 16, 2019: Dublin University 34 Ballynahinch 35, College Park; Saturday, February 22, 2020: Ballynahinch 26 Dublin University 40, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

GARRYOWEN (1st) v UCD (10th), Dooradoyle

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WW; UCD: LL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Tony Butler 22; Tries: Liam Coombes, Colm Quilligan 2 each; UCD: Points: Jack Ringrose, David Heavey 5 each; Tries: Jack Ringrose, David Heavey 1 each

Preview: Contrasting fortunes for these sides across the first fortnight. Garryowen have a real pep in their step, hitting top spot as the division’s leading scorers and with their players also making an impact for Munster.

Munster Academy scrum half Paddy Patterson will be back in UCD colours, released for some game-time as the students look to bounce back from a couple of disappointing performances.

UCD head coach Kevin Croke has also added Luke Maloney, James Moriarty and Jamie Murphy to the back-line, with Alec Byrne, Sean O’Brien and lynchpin number 8 Ronan Foley returning to the pack.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 14, 2019: UCD 25 Garryowen 24, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, January 11, 2020: Garryowen 40 UCD 14, Dooradoyle

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win

UCC (9th) v LANSDOWNE (4th), the Mardyke

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LL; Lansdowne: WW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Rob Hedderman, Darragh French 8 each; Tries: Richard Thompson, Louis Bruce, Matthew Bowen 1 each; Lansdowne: Points: Charlie Tector 14; Tries: Mark Boyle 2

Preview: Lansdowne won both fixtures by the minimum margin when they faced UCC in 2019/20. They give Michael Silvester his debut on the left wing after he pulled up during the warm-up at Terenure last week.

Charlie Tector is rewarded for his 14-point salvo with another start at out-half, while Frank and Jamie Kavanagh will both start in the front row. Greg McGrath steps up to the Connacht bench.

UCC showed a good deal of resilience against Garryowen, scoring last through returning winger Matthew Bowen. If they have John Hodnett and Cian Bohane on board again, the students should test Lansdowne’s early-season momentum.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 14, 2019: UCC 14 Lansdowne 15, the Mardyke; Saturday, January 11, 2020: Lansdowne 19 UCC 18, Aviva Stadium back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

YOUNG MUNSTER (2nd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (5th), Tom Clifford Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Young Munster: WW; Terenure College: WL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 23; Tries: Conor Hayes 2; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 20; Tries: Stephen O’Neill, Craig Adams 2 each

Preview: John Foley and Fintan Coleman are promoted from the bench to start in Young Munster’s back row, as they welcome Terenure College to Tom Clifford Park for the first time in three years.

Cookies winger Conor Hayes is chasing his third try in as many games, as are Terenure duo Stephen O’Neill and Craig Adams who feature in a side showing five changes from last Saturday’s 39-26 loss to Lansdowne.

Peter Sylvester and experienced winger Sam Coghlan Murray come into the back-line, while former Garryowen tighthead Andy Keating, Levi Vaughan and Michael Melia will start up front in Greenfields.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 13, 2019: Terenure College 22 Young Munster 15, Lakelands Park; Saturday, October 12, 2019: Terenure College 30 Young Munster 23, Lakelands Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win

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How a Professional Rugby Player Spends Sundays

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During the week, Nate Brakeley works as a data analyst. But on the weekends, he competes with Rugby United New York, the city’s first professional major league rugby franchise, now in its fourth season.

During the pandemic, the league centralized operations, which used to span the five boroughs, in Jersey City. Mr. Brakeley, 31, and his fiancée, Emily Muhl, 39, followed, moving from the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan to a second-floor walk-up across the river.

“Normally, guys are all over the city taking public transit to practice,” Mr. Brakeley said. “We moved operations to here because we could more effectively bubble ourselves from the general population.” For the most part, the move worked. Practice resumed this January, and in March the team played its first game of the season, which concludes this month.

BAGEL BREAKFAST I’m up at 8 a.m., which is late because I’m up at 6 during the week. Whoever is up first makes coffee, which is usually Emily. I roll out of bed and get an egg, sausage and cheese on an everything bagel from International Bagel and Cafe, which is around the corner. Emily does intermittent fasting so she doesn’t eat breakfast. I’ll eat while I watch a rugby match, usually that’s happening in the United Kingdom. I like to watch other teams to see how they play and learn their strategies. Emily might go to a spin class.

BODY I stretch for the next 20 to 30 minutes using 20 different stretching mobility torture devices which I’ve collected: foam rollers, lacrosse balls, percussion guns, and bands.

BRAIN I’ll read or play chess on the computer. I love sci-fi. It’s a fun mix of speculative escapism and interesting commentary on society today. I’m currently reading “A Desolation Called Peace” by Arkady Martine.

GYM DAY If I don’t have a game, I go to the gym for two hours and do the bike or rowing machine. Then I’ll do squats with weights on my back. On a good day I can lift 400 pounds. That’s followed by leg exercises. Emily does all this with me. She lifts weights and uses the machines. It’s why we started dating. She said she would come to the gym with me. That’s how she got me.

GAME DAY If I have a game, I’m in our silver Subaru Forester, which we bought while quarantining in New Hampshire, by noon. This year, for all of our home games, we meet at our practice field beforehand. Then the 30 of us get on a bus so we can arrive at the stadium together. We were playing at Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City, but for this last home game, we’re at St. John’s University, in Queens. It’s a higher quality field. We’ve been nomads this season. I don’t mind. I’m happy to play wherever, whenever. Rugby is a huge part of my life. I get a lot of validation here.

PREP I head into the locker room, unpack my stuff, which consists of cleats (size 16), shorts and a change of clothes. Then I get my uniform jersey, which are communal. It’s washed, that’s as much as I can ask for. The number is by the position you play. I’m usually 4 or 5. There’s humility in not having your own name blasted on the back. I tape my wrists, followed by my ears — to the side of my head — so I don’t get cauliflower ear, which is what happens if you get a shot to the ear. It fills up with fluid and hardens so your ear looks like a head of cauliflower.

WARM UP By 1:30 we’re all out on the field. I do stretching, sprints and pass the ball around. Then team warm-ups start. The opposing team is doing the same. Rugby is a small community. There are only 12 teams in our professional league so I have friends on every team. The fans will filter in. They started coming back in late April. It’s all outdoors so no one is wearing masks. It’s great to have them cheering us on. Before the game starts, we come together in the locker room. There’s no pump-up speech from the coach, but there’s one from the captain. We do a team cheer. Then I take 30 seconds to calm myself.

PLAY We play at 2. The game is two 40-minute halves, with a 10-minute break. Only 15 of us play at once. We sing the national anthem, then we start. I usually remember kickoff; the rest is vivid snapshots of things that went well or very badly that stick with me, connected by a blur. By 4 we’re shaking hands with the other team. We applaud the fans for coming out. We wouldn’t be a team without the people who came to see us play.

KING OF THE HILL We wander back into the locker room around 4:20 and debrief with the coach, which, depending on how the game went, will have a different intonation. Then players say their bit. If we won we sing some bastardized version of “New York, New York.” It’s about three verses long but good for yelling.

TEAM MEAL I shower, change and meet up with Emily. We used to go to dinner in Coney Island. Now because of Covid, we are not allowed to have a post-match meal with the other team or with fans. So we gather at Cast Iron Lofts in Jersey City, which is where a lot of team members live. The team will organize a big pasta and chicken dinner, which we all eat with our significant others and friends on the roof. Post-match socializing is a big part of rugby culture.

LOCAL HAUNTS If I don’t have a game, Emily and I go out for dinner around 6. We have only been here for three months, so it doesn’t feel like home yet. But we are less cramped. We’ve found two places we like: The Boil, which is a Cajun crawfish spot, and Left Bank Burger Bar.

SETTLING IN Game or no game, we’re home around 8:30. We will watch TV or a movie. We recently watched all of Ozark, which was a good, dark, gripping show. And The Nevers. It’s Victorian England meets sci-fi so that was a good, interesting crossover show. By 10:30 I’m in bed, exhausted and sore from being beaten up during the day. The minute I’m horizontal, I’m out.

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Saracens bring in centre on short-term contract

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Saracens have announced the signing of centre Ross Neal, who will join the Premiership club on a short-term deal.

The 25-year-old began his playing career with London Irish where he came through their academy, and has since gone to feature for Wasps as well as a spell in Major League Rugby with Seattle Seawolves.

A sizeable back, Neal stands at 6’5″ and weighs in at 110kg, meaning he will add plenty of power to the Sarries backline.

Best clubs in the world

Neal is excited to have started with the Men in Black, telling the club website: “Saracens is one of the best clubs in the world and I hope to bring what I can to the team in training and on the field whilst also learning what I can from the players and coaches.”

Director of rugby Mark McCall is delighted to welcome Neal to StoneX Stadium, adding: “Ross has Premiership experience and we are pleased that he has joined us on a short-term basis.

“He increases our midfield options and we are looking forward to seeing him in a Saracens shirt.”



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