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Irish links aplenty as USA's new rugby competition announces squads

The likes of Blackrock almuni Dylan Fawsitt and Pierce Dargan will hope to make an impact.

PRO RUGBY, THE new rugby competition in the US, has announced the initial rosters for its five teams and there are several Irish links in the squads.

Britain Rugby WCup South Africa USA Cork man John Quill [7] in action against South Africa at the RWC. Source: Christophe Ena

The new competition’s 12-week season gets underway next month, ending on 31 July, and will see teams from Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Ohio and Denver take part.

PRO Rugby, which is sanctioned by World Rugby and USA Rugby, has ambitious plans for the future, but will look to establish itself on a relatively solid base this year.

Limerick man Ray Egan has been confirmed as the head coach of the new San Diego team, while his fellow Ireland native Sean O’Leary will take charge of the Denver side, with former Munster and Connacht prop Peter Borlase acting as an assistant.

PRO Rugby released the initial rosters for the five squads last night, although there remains work to be done in filling out several of the rosters. Many overseas players are still waiting on Visas to allow them to feature in the new league, but there are already several Irish links in the squads.

Cork native and current Eagles international John Quill is part of Sacramento’s roster. The 26-year-old openside flanker played for Munster up to ‘A’ level, has spent time in London Irish’ academy, and played for London Welsh in the English Championship.

Dolphin RFC man Quill qualifies for the US through his mother and first played for the Eagles in 2012. He has gone on to win 17 caps.

Also part of the Sacramento squad is out-half Garrett Brewer, a US native who has been playing his club rugby in Ireland this season with Newbridge.

Mirco Bergamasco of Italy is tackled by David Wallace and Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland 4/2/2006 Bergamasco has signed for PRO Rugby. Source: ©INPHO

Brewer has had involvement in Eagles’ training camps and previously spent a stint in Australia with the famous Randwick club. The out-half has been coaching alongside his playing commitments with Newbridge this season.

Another interesting name on a Sacramento roster that includes three USA internationals and Canada hooker Ray Barwill is that of Mirco Bergamasco. The 33-year-old Italy international has joined for the inaugural season of PRO Rugby.

The Ohio squad has further Irish links, with ex-Blackrock College student Dylan Fawsitt having signed up. Fawsitt was part of the same 2009 Leinster Schools Senior Cup-winning team as Andrew Conway, Jordi Murphy, Denis Buckley and Dave Heffernan.

Previously a hooker and prop, Fawsitt played second row in that ’09 Blackrock team but converted back into the front row in the club game with St. Mary’s.

The Irishman moved to Life University – where Aj MacGinty came through – in the States to further his education. Fawsitt has played alongside MacGinty and fellow Ireland natives Marcus Walsh and Blane McIlroy at Life U, while former Leinster and Connacht lock David Gannon is an assistant coach at the Georgia institute.

Keith Donoghue and Cian Culleton tackle Dylan Fawsitt Fawsitt carrying the ball for St. Mary's Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Fawsitt is joined in the Ohio squad for PRO Rugby by fellow Blackrock alumnus Pierce Dargan, who played for the school’s Senior Cup side in 2010 and 2011.

The back row represented the US at U20s level, helping them to win the 2012 Junior World Trophy. Dargan studied and played rugby with Trinity College after school and featured with Clontarf RFC recently.

Wexford native Justin Allen is the third Irishman with the Ohio team. The imposing second row spent much of his youth in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal and played for Ulster through the age grades.

Qualifying for the US through his mother, Allen represented the USA High School All-American side in 2013 and has remained on the rugby radar in the States. Having previously played with Portadown in Ireland, the 6′ 9″ second row has been with Chinnor RFC in Oxfordshire this season.

12-times capped USA scrum-half Robbie Shaw is also part of the group at Ohio. Shaw was part of the Ireland U21 side that reached the final of the World Championships in Glasgow in 2004.

With the likes of Jamie Heaslip, Tomás O’Leary, Gareth Steenson, Denis Fogarty and Declan Fitzpatrick starting for Ireland that day against New Zealand, Shaw featured on the bench. He has since played club rugby for the likes of Bristol, Richmond and London Scottish, as well as spending time with Galwegians and featuring for Connacht A.

Robbie Shaw Shaw in Connacht colours in 2008. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The initial roster for San Francisco includes twice-capped Eagles international wing Kingsley McGowan, who has been playing with Trinity College under Tony Smeeth this season.

There is an Irish link at the Denver club too, with 35-year-old former Ulster and South Africa back row Pedrie Wannenburg having signed on to play this season, before eventually moving into a coaching role in the US.

Former Munster academy coach Egan has seen his San Diego side boosted by the announcement that USA wing Takudzwa Ngwenya will play for them this season.

The 35-times capped flyer has joined from Biarritz in the Pro D2, but it is thought that he will return to France to join a new club in the 2016/17 season.

San Diego have a total of seven USA internationals in their early roster, while Canada centre Phil Mackenzie and Chilean number eight Nikola Bursic have also joined.

There remain further announcements to be made with regards to signings in PRO Rugby and the hope is that there will be further Irish involvement.

The likes of New Zealand internationals Mils Muliaina and Jamie Mackintosh are believed to have agreed moves to the , though no announcement has been made by PRO Rugby in that regard.

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Murray Kinsella

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