In part 5 of the roster breakdown, we move into the forward pack. Old Glory has had a lot of turnover in the loose forwards, with more of last years' back rowers leaving than than staying. There are also several new names coming in, although not enough to replace those leaving.
|Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz||Lautaro Bavaro||Felix Kalapu|
|Cory Daniel||Alejo Daireaux||Dom Bailey|
|Fintan Coleman||Collin Grosse||Luke Campbell|
|Brady Daniel||Dacoda Worth|
Just four returning players
The most notable returning player is USA Eagle star and fan-favorite firebrand Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz. Likely guaranteed the number 8 now that his biggest competition for the spot, Luke Campbell, is retiring, JFS should bring a lot of energy back into the forwards. He is a player at the peak of his performance right now, impressing both in MLR and with the Eagles. He will need to be careful, though. While his energy and aggressive play make him a valuable asset, he was suspended for ten weeks after being cited for foul play twice last season. He can't afford to make more errors like that if he wants to continue his career trajectory.
Cory Daniel, now an Eagle after getting his international debut in the fall, is also returning. The former wrestler has worked his way to the top despite picking up rugby only a few years ago. A defensive workhorse with more tackles than anyone else in the league last year, he should be expected to pick up where he left off.
Old Glory also brings back Fintan Coleman, the young US-eligible Irishman who played a surprising number of minutes last season. Given that he is a domestic player and foreign slots are limited, we may see a good amount of him in 2023 as well. The final returning player is Brady Daniel, the brother of Cory Daniel. A late signing last year, Brady Daniel only had a few matches to prove himself in 2022. He remains something of an unknown quantity.
Mixture of experience incoming
Joining the squad will be three players spanning a range of experience levels. The oldest and most experienced is Lautaro Bavaro, who has been a fixture at amateur club Hindú for 10 years, with pro stints in SLAR and Currie Cup. He will provide some extra experience and leadership that has been missing from the position since Mungo Mason left in 2021.
Alejo Daireaux, also of Argentina, is joining the team as well. He has yet to debut professionally but has played a lot of rugby at the amateur level. The team has confirmed that he is US-qualified, though, which will help him get on the roster with foreign slots limited.
Old Glory also picked up Collin Grosse in the 2022 draft. Although he played at lock in college, he doesn't quite have the height to play in the second row in the MLR and is projected as a back rower. Hooker Koi Koi Nelligan might also end up playing in back row, since that's what he played in college. For now, however, we're assuming that he will play primarily at hooker.
A flood of exiting players
Those three additions are outweighed in sheer numbers by the players departing. They are leaving for a wide variety of reasons, from retirement to non-rugby career opportunities to better contracts elsewhere. Felix Kalapu, who was a sensation when he joined part way through last season, has been picked up by Western Force in Super Rugby. He trained with Manu Samoa before he came to Old Glory, so this move isn't a huge surprise. He always had the potential to move on to higher leagues.
Luke Campbell and Josh Brown, both experienced eightmen, have decided to retire. Campbell originally planned on returning to Old Glory for 2023, but injury put an end to that and led him to call time on his career. Brown, meanwhile, was captain of the original Old Glory exhibition team in 2019 and stayed on as an experienced backup. However, he seems to have decided that he can no longer balance professional rugby with his career as a firefighter and won't be returning to OGDC.
Dacoda Worth, a longtime OG, has found a new home with Chicago Hounds. The former Army sergeant was under-utilized and Old Glory and will now have the chance to return to the midwest, where he's originally from. There's a chance that OGDC fans will see him on the other side of the pitch in the first match of the season, when Chicago comes to DC.
Dom Bailey is also out, despite having played all but two matches last year. He never quite had the impact defensively that was expected of him, but he was one the team's better tacklers.
Predicted depth chart
There are two obvious starters: Fa'anana-Schultz at eight and Cory Daniel at flanker. My bet would then be on Bavaro to take the other starting spot, although that might depend on decisions made elsewhere in the lineup, as there might not be a foreign spot available. Coleman and Daireaux will likely be battling it out for the bench spots, with Coleman having the advantage of MLR experience and versatility while Daireaux holds the end in quantity of rugby played. Grosse and Brady Daniel will have a chance to develop, and could challenge for bench spots if they're good enough.
It's also worth noting that some players may play out of position. As mentioned, Koi Koi Nelligan my see some time at flanker since that's where he played in college. Tevita Naqali has also played at flanker and eight in 2021. Going the other way, we've seen Coleman cover lock occasionally as well, which makes him versatile as a backup.
Expectations for 2022
With as much turnover as the position has seen, it's difficult to know what to expect from the back row. In some ways they were solid last year, with Cory Daniel's league-leading tackling and Fa'anana-Schultz's hard running. However, there were some things missing: disruptiveness at the breakdown, consistency covering the pick-n-go, and a degree of leadership.
My hope is that Bavaro can solve some of that. He's not especially old, just 28, but he has a ton of experience as a captain and just generally playing the game, which I think could help stabilize things a lot. I'm also hoping we see a more disruptive Cory Daniel, more of what you'd expect from a traditional 7. He showed some of that with the Eagles, so I'm hopeful it comes out during the season as well. As for the consistency issues, we'll just have to hope that the coaches can sort that out.
On paper, I like this unit. If everyone lives up to their promise they can fix the issues that they had last year and have a positive impact on the team. Will that happen? It remains to be seen.
Check out the rest of the series:
- Part 1: Back Three
- Part 2: Center
- Part 3: Flyhalf
- Part 4: Scrumhalf
- Part 6: Lock
- Part 7: Hooker
- Part 8: Prop
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect new information about Alejo Daireaux's eligibility for the US. The article was written under the assumption that he was not eligible, which turned out to be incorrect.