The USA Rugby U23 All-Star Competition begins with divisional playoffs, and eight teams will report to East (Clinton, N.J.) and West (San Francisco) locations for a double-header 15s weekend. Saturday’s victors book spots to the championship on June 25-26 in Lemont, Ill., and Sunday’s games are for seed.
RELATED: U23 details + contacts
Given the newness and timing of the competition, all-star programs have experienced a wide range of support (or lack thereof) when redeveloping these valuable pipelines. In the South, the Atlanta Harlequins understand the value of regional U23s.
“We’re kind of on our own,” South U23 Harlequins coach Ros Chou said of raising a program from scratch. “We’re relying on the Atlanta Harlequins, which is cool, but obviously the WPL is trying to raise their own money for things.”
The Harlequins came through with last-minute jerseys for the all-star team. The U23 staff had also reached out to Rugby ATL, seeing how other Major League Rugby entities like Old Glory and New England Free Jacks include girls and women’s programming, but “they wouldn’t even let us tour the facilities,” Chou said.
“Pay-to-play is tough, and you don’t want to ask these players for a ton of money to have this opportunity,” the former WPL player continued. “Women’s rugby is who we need to help women’s rugby.”
Funding woes aside, tryouts drew close to 50 players from NIRA (NCAA varsity), DI Elite, NCR Small College, CRAA DI and DII, and three senior club teams. The staff brings that same mix. Where else does this type of cross-pollination happen today?
SOUTH U23 HARLEQUINS
1. Ubaida Ahmed – Raleigh
2. Emerson Allen – Life Univ.
3. Kapoina Bailey – Lindenwood Univ.
4. Bailey Burt – Lander Univ.
5. Jess Burt – Lander Univ.
6. Emmaclaire Cantrell – Cardiff Met (Wales)
7. Mary Chura – Emory & Henry College
8. Alle English – Queens Univ. Charlotte
9. Irie Farley – Lindenwood Univ.
10. Morgan Freeman – Ft. Miami
11. Samantha Ganoza – Ft. Miami
12. Saher Hamdan – Life Univ.
13. Chloe Hill – Eckerd College
14. Liana Holani – Lindenwood Univ.
15. Jess Keating – Life Univ.
16. Autumn LoCicero – Life Univ.
17. Candela Mangiardi-Querol – Eckerd College
18. Nina Mason – Life Univ.
19. Tonia O’Neill – Florida State/Tampa Bay Krewe
20. Emily Rahija – Univ. Central Florida
21. Sarah Scott – Raleigh
22. Puni Skipps – Lindenwood Univ.
23. Freda Tafuna – Lindenwood Univ.
24. Pepe Toomalatai – Life Univ.
25. Taina Tukuafu – Lindenwood Univ.
26. Brooklyn Vaifanua – Life Univ.
27. Erin Wholey – Lander Univ.