Take a deep breath. That’s rugby season air, folks.
Before diving into the picks, a request.
We all know this offseason has felt like an eternity. Imagine what it feels like for everyone participating in game day. If the rugby isn’t crisp, be patient. Most teams had only one or two preseason games. A few players still haven’t arrived. It will clean up. Just embrace the return.
But players aren’t the only ones that may need to shake some rust. Refs, coaches, broadcasters, camera operators, and even game day staff may need a bit to figure things out in the Covid era. Whether you’re watching at home or heading to see your squad in person, please remain kind. This young league is incredible. Let’s all be thankful its back.
And now, onto the spoilers.
RUNY @ Legion
If you’ve missed the news, the Legion brought in world class 7s player Cecil Afrika this offseason. Flanker Chris Robshaw remains out on suspension, but will be an impact player in a few weeks. Both squads underwent coaching changes. While I have serious questions about how co-coaching will work for San Diego, RUNY having to change coaches just a couple weeks ago leaves them in a tough spot. Both sides have a ton of talent, but traveling and the overall change at RUNY is likely too much to overcome in Week 1.
Free Jacks @ Giltinis
Like RUNY above, I’m high on the Free Jacks’ prospects. They’ve brought in some intriguing young Kiwi talent. On the other hand, Gil-team-i 2 has went the route of aging Australian internationals. There may actually be more potential in New England, but the inaugural bump is real. I have real questions about Matt Giteau at 10 for LA, but I think they’ll push out of the gates strong.
Arrows @ Rugby ATL
The Arrows have the shortest ‘road trip’ of the week. The Canadians bring back a core that went 4-1 last year and a playoff team the year before, then added some Argentinean flair. Just one issue: this team just relocated and hasn’t been able to get their whole roster together yet. I expect Toronto to challenge for a playoff spot in the East, but it could be a rough couple weeks. ATL is a cohesive unit that seems destined to win one and start the season right.
Winner: Rugby ATL
SeaWolves @ SaberCats
Arguably the toughest pick of the week. Seattle is two time defending champs, but season 3 was worrisome. How much of that was due to regression? Other teams improving? Seattle opting for an abbreviated camp last year? Their second defense starts today. Houston has a reputation of playing below their talent level. A team with Sam Windsor at 10 should be pushing hard for a playoff spot, yet they seem forgotten after the offseason news out of Austin and Dallas. I like Seattle on the road in a scrappy one.
Warriors @ Gilgronis
Listen. I’ve been as rough on Gil-team-i 1 as anyone. The name is stupid. Their history is terrible. But there’s real confidence in this camp. I’m not sold on Austin as a real title contender, but I think the battle for the second playoff spot in the West will be rough. I see this team as being a year away. However, Utah consistently seems 2-3 years away. Will things click this year? On paper, I see them staying the same while everyone else got better. They’ll compete, but they’re the only team I don’t see vying for a spot in the postseason.
Old Glory @ NOLA Gold
We didn’t get to kickoff without a Covid issue. Currently, the game is shifted to Sunday. Without knowing the severity of the issue, it’s hard to feel overly confident in the Flags. The scrum was a challenge last year, and I don’t see that getting better out of the gate. This team just doesn’t excite me. NOLA is the opposite. They’re the only franchise that still has its original coach. Is that good? I’ll leave that up to NOLA fans. I like that they’ve allowed that program to build. Unlike Utah, they have both a vision and a competitive team now. I’ll take them at home most days.
Winner: NOLA Gold