Nearly two dozen of the top up-and-coming North American rugby prospects will have the opportunity to take to the field this weekend as they enter the Aspen Ruggerfest after their initial six weeks of training.  The roster is comprised predominately of U21 players, with the addition of several NCAA transfer athletes and a few looking to maintain fitness for Rugby Canada and the USA Rugby World Cup squads.

The athletes train daily at Glendale’s World Class facility, Infinity Park. Early morning skill sessions and strength & conditioning, which allows the middle of the day for work commitments, studies, ACT/SAT prep, etc. With three matches over the three months strategically placed every 3-4 weeks it allows ample time for teaching and skill development.

“The North American academy is designed to continue developing the next generation of talent from Canada and the United States by providing top quality coaching, facilities, resources and opportunities to compete. The pathway of athletes to the program is quite diverse. Some have come through age grade, most have been referred through Major League Rugby academies and local outreach identifying talent in their markets and some are NCAA transfer athletes.” said Dan Payne, Rugby Americas Chief Executive Officer.

Focusing on athletes under or near the age of 21, the academy roster includes a variety of experiences from MLR academies, USA & Canada age-grade pathways and crossover athletes that have featured in NCAA sports.  Several have spent time on NFL practice squads and were identified as part of the player ID combines. The academy provides opportunities for some athletes to live on-site, some choose to live off-site and others make themselves available throughout 90 days around their post-secondary education schedule.

“Our goal is to support the exciting growth of Major League Rugby in North America by providing labor that is prepared to be able to step in and continue developing while contributing to the training environment. For many young players it’s difficult to make the jump directly to professional rugby and this academy will provide the necessary tools for targeted athletes to be prepared to enter and continue their development in an elite daily training environment in 2020 and beyond. Many are low or just outside the 23-man roster and with the focus being on winning games during the season, it’s crucial these athletes get the minutes of competition and focus required to assist in their development throughout the remainder of the year” he added.

“We have held two previous combines in Glendale – one for South American players looking to potentially earn MLR opportunities and 15 of the 20 ended up signing contracts.  In June the second camp focused on development and talent identification – this academy is a continuation on the latter to aid in the necessary development,” said Payne.

Throughout the course of the three months, the athletes will have the opportunity to work with a number of international coaches, including:

  • Paul Emerick – USA Eagle & Houston Sabercats Skills Coach
  • Aaron Carpenter – Canada’s all-time cap leader & Toronto Arrows Assistant Coach
  • Mike Tolkin – Former USA Eagles & Rugby United New York Head Coach
  • Andy Clarke – Brumbies Skills Coach



 NamePositionAgeNationalityReferral Pathway
1Brennon AdamsWing24USAHP Combine/MLR referral
2Fred Adjuda*Backrow26USAHP Combine/Pro-Athlete Football/MLR referral
3Mike DabulasFlyhalf22USAHP Combine/College all Americans/MLR referral
4Cory DanielBackrow23USAHP Combine/NCAA Transfer Athlete (Wrestling)
5Charlie HolaBackrow18USAHP Combine/High School all Americans
6Nick Hyrekewicz*Hooker22USAHP Combine/Collegiate Pathway
7Joel JaldinHooker23USAMLR referral
8Ryan JamesWing19USAHP Combine/MLR referral
9Campbell JohnstoneCentre21USAHP Combine/MLR referral
10Mika KruseCentre21USAHP Combine/MLR referral
11Genesis LuciusWing21USAHP Combine/Capital Selects referral
12Pat LynottProp25CanadaMLR referral
13Jordan MarineyWing19USAMLR referral
14Jack McRogers*Hooker20CanadaHP Combine/Canada age grade
15Jeff PeleseumaFlyhalf18USAUSA U20’s
16Ryan Rees*Scrum Half22USAHP Combine/College all Americans
17Moses SaoleProp19USAMLR referral
18Sidney ShoopScrum Half19USAHP Combine
19Ryan SmithLock23USAHP Combine/Pro-Athlete Football/MLR referral
20Bailey WilsonBackrow19USAUSA U20’s
21Salanoa-Alo WilyProp23USANCAA Transfer Athlete (Football)

*Highlighted players are non-residents and are being monitored while competing in elite university training environment

HP Project ManagerChris ThomsonWorld Rugby
Lead CoachAndy ClarkHP Consultant
Senior AdvisorChris HickeyHP Consultant
ManagerKieran BrownerRugby Americas Consultant
S&C/PhysioCastle CreightonRugby Americas Consultant
Game AnalystTravis HaugenRugby Americas Consultant/Glendale Raptors
Sports DieticianClaire McDanielsRugby Americas Consultant/Denver University
Assistant CoachPeter BorlaseRugby Americas Consultant/Glendale Raptors
Assistant CoachPaul EmerickHouston Sabercats
Assistant CoachMike TolkinNYAC
Assistant CoachAaron CarpenterToronto Arrows