Northeast Academy Announces Men’s LVI Rosters
New York, NY; (February 29, 2016) – It has been a banner year for the Northeast Academy, and it all started at the Las Vegas Invitational, 2015. Having won Aces Division gold and Elite Division silver at the event last year, USA Rugby’s designated pathway organization in the northeast has shifted focus this time around and will be sending a single men’s team (along with a single Women’s squad), aiming for a more densely packed talent base to compete in what is sure to be the fiercest LVI competition to date. The America’s Cup Division (formerly “Men’s Elite”) in 2016 will include three national teams, two national team B-sides (French Development and USA Falcons) along with international 7s club powerhouses like Froggies Midol of France, Tumatuenga from New Zealand and of course, the current World Club 7s Champion, Daveta Rugby Club of Fiji. The LVI truly has become an international stage and this Academy team is not shying away from its duty to challenge its players and coaches as part of their development in the USA pathway system.
Northeast Academy Director of Coaching, Dominic Wareing (whose head coaching record with the Academy is 2 Cup Championships in 3 events) was succinct in his determination of what the LVI comes down to for the Northeast men. “We always look to control what we can control and right now that is to maintain our current standard as the top Development Academy in the country.” He continued, “The deeper field this year is going to be great for us. We will get to see exactly how good our guys are, and where we’re at in relation to world class competition.”
Having only lost last year’s Elite LVI Division Final by a single try to a Serevi (now Atavus) Selects side which carried the likes of Ben Gollings and Tomasi Cama, and having recently come up one try short against Esher of Great Britain in the Tobago 7s, the Northeast Academy should be coming in a little bit salty. Also among motivating factors is an August pool play loss to Daveta at the World Club 7s Championship in Limerick, Ireland.
Considering the level of play they have faced since 2013, the Northeast Academy’s elite squad now has a very experienced nucleus and coaching staff on big stages. The team’s three marquis players at this event should be their veteran leadership group of Nate Brakeley, who has just returned from USA Eagle 15s duty at the ARC; Derek Lipscomb, returning specifically for the LVI from his nine month tour with Blackheath RC in London; Sean Rafferty and Pono Haitsuka, who with Eagle 7s experience in 2014 and again back to full health is as dynamic a player in the midfield as any player in Alex Magleby’s Development pathway.
True to the form of elite structured 7s, the rest of the team is also built for coverage in multiple aspects of the game. They have a number of players who can perform in a variety of roles. Sean McGarrity and Rick Kirkland are two up and coming flyers the Academy is keen to watch at this next level. Kirkland was recently named the 2015 Club 7s Player of the Year by This is American Rugby and McGarrity has been a key havoc maker for the Academy’s Aces team in prior LVI competitions. Elsewhere in the lines, Chris Frazier and ‘Milkshake’ Mike St. Claire are powerful wings in the 15s game who make for fast, capable forwards with the Northeast Academy while another couple of true “wing-forward” style 8-man specialists in the 15s game bring their nuanced menace to the breakdown and restart in the form of Mystic River’s Rafferty and Old Blue’s Alex Schwarz.
Last year, the Academy’s Elite team was captained by current Eagle 7s mainstay, Nate Augspurger. He will be unavailable this time, of course, with his spot on the Eagles (or Falcons) still in place. His departure opens the door however, for younger Academy halfbacks to take the main stage. Dylan Carrion, who has impressed fans and commentary teams alike in each of his prior Academy appearances, will be set to fully embrace that opportunity along with two other first time LVI attendees. Former USA U-20 representative Connor Wallace-Sims and former Dartmouth College football crossover athlete, Stephen Dazzo were highlighted by the team’s coaching staff as players to watch now and in the near future.
Dazzo has been immersing himself in elite rugby participation for just over a year through the Northeast Academy – Boston training group and at Mystic River RFC in Malden, MA. On the Mystic 15s squad he has proven to be a dynamic Center with a nose for the tryline. Wallace-Sims is the youngest member of the squad, at just 20 years of age. He has already begun to shine for the Academy in other events though, so it should be interesting to see how these debutants acclimate to global elite level 7s.
All things considered, the Academy’s condensed roster sheet, which brings together Aces and Elites from last year with young, exciting Eagle hopefuls should provide for a very competitive team. Even against this year’s extremely stiff field the Northeast Academy has hunger and experience on its side. Some have already had a small taste of National Team representation; still more now recognize how close they might be to earning their own caps as well. As is always the primary objective with the team though, Wareing and Northeast Academy Executive Director Sean Horan reiterated the point that results are always a secondary result from performance. Expect the Northeast Academy to focus on its tasks as they come. Composure and work rate should again be hallmarks that pay dividends for this Northeast Academy squad.
Northeast Academy Men’s roster – Las Vegas Invitational, 2016: 1. Nate Brakeley (NYAC), 2. Dylan Carrion (Old Blue of NY), 3. Stephen Dazzo (Mystic), 4.Chris Frazier (Mystic) 5. Pono Haitsuka (Mystic) 6. Connor Wallace-Sims (Old Blue of NY), 7. Rick Kirkland (Old Blue of NY), 8. Derek Lipscomb (Blackheath RFC), 9. Sean McGarrity (CT Bulldogs), 10. Sean Rafferty (Mystic River), 11. Alex Schwarz (Old Blue of NY), 12. Michael St. Claire (Old Blue of NY)