Americas Rugby News
December 21, 2023

Major League Rugby is officially back in Los Angeles. Months after the league announced that the Atlanta franchise would be relocated to the west coast, the new owners group has at last lifted the lid on the team’s identity. The new club will be called Rugby FC Los Angeles, with a new logo as seen below.

CEO Pete Sickle explained the logo choice on the latest edition of The Rugby Rundown. The outer shape is that of an acorn, a nod to the oak tree native to southern California, with the interior lettering in an art deco style. Sickle says the shape of the ‘A’ is also loosely a tribute to the Rugby ATL logo. Team colors will be blue and gold, though only the ‘RFC’ lettering in the logo uses the latter.

There are few similarities between the now-defunct LA Giltinis and RFC LA, and the team’s home turf will also be different. Where the Giltinis called the cavernous Memorial Coliseum home during their two seasons, RFC will be based at 27,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. It features a Bermuda grass pitch and is the home of the LA Galaxy pro soccer side.

The San Diego Legion played the Utah Warriors on a side pitch at the sports park during the 2021 season but it’s the main stadium that will house the newcomers. In fact opening weekend coincides with the World Sevens Series stop on March 3, with the international event set to conclude just a couple hours prior to RFC’s kickoff against the Warriors.

Sickle is one of three investors who are also behind the creation of the Tel Aviv Heat, who compete in the Rugby Europe Super Cup. The others are Mike Aron and Barry Seidel. Only five players on the 34-man initial roster play for both sides, however, and only two are new to MLR – Namibian World Cup flanker Max Katjijeko and former Fiji back row Semi Kunatani.

Stephen Brett remains as Head Coach after leading ATL for the past two years. His assistants will be newly-retired ATL flyhalf Kurt Coleman and Neil Tunnah, who takes charge of the forwards and defense. Tunnah hails from Scotland but his professional coaching career began in Australia before joining the Jersey Reds in the English Championship. He has recently been working as a high performance consultant with the Montana Institute of Sport.

Only 11 players will follow Brett and Coleman from ATL to LA. Among them are Eagles internationals Alex Maughan and Jason Damm, and Canadian club captain Matt Heaton. There are returns to MLR for ex-Giltinis scrumhalf Tas Smith, former New York flyhalf Dan Hollinshead, and former ATL fullback Rory van Vugt. Former Cal Golden Bears star Sam Walsh also signs on from the Eagles 7s squad.

Notably only two of the team’s five Collegiate Draft picks have been signed, versatile backs Matt Anticev and Nick Hartley. Connor Grindal, Jason Emery, and Andrew Coe have been signed via the Dispersal Draft, though notably Arrows tighthead prop Tyler Rowland has not put pen to paper. Instead LA has acquired another Canadian international Conor Young from the New England Free Jacks.

An initial 34-man roster can be seen below, with a detailed roster, social media links, and full regular season fixtures list here-



LH Connor Grindal Toronto Arrows
LH Alessandro Heaney Cork Constitution (IR)
LH Dane Zander Queensland Reds (AU)
HO Bruce Kauika-Petersen Northland (NZ)
HO Ben Strang Rugby ATL
HO/TH Alex Maughan Rugby ATL
TH/LH Lincoln Si’i Rugby ATL
TH Conor Young New England Free Jacks
LO Liam Antrobus Cardiff Met (UK)
LO Matt Gelhaus Rugby ATL
LO Reegan O’Gorman New England Free Jacks
LO Theo Vukasinovic Northampton Saints (UK)
LO/N8 Jurie van Vuuren Utah Warriors / Tel Aviv Heat
FL Michael Amiras Strela Kazan (RU)
FL Matt Heaton Rugby ATL
FL Max Katjijeko Tel Aviv Heat
FL/N8 Semi Kunatani Tel Aviv Heat
N8 Jason Damm Rugby ATL
SH Niall Saunders Rugby ATL / Tel Aviv Heat
SH Tas Smith Sydney Uni (AU)
SH/FB Nick Hartley Missouri University of S&T
FH Jordan Chait Seattle Seawolves / Tel Aviv Heat
FH Dan Hollinshead Southland (NZ)
FH Sam Walsh USA Eagles 7s
FH/FB Matt Anticev Dartmouth College
CE Jason Emery New York Ironworkers
CE Will Leonard Rugby ATL
CE Seth Purdey Rugby ATL
CE/FB James Stokes London Irish (UK)
WI Jack Shaw Rugby ATL
WI Caleb Strum Rugby ATL
WI/FB Andrew Coe New York Ironworkers
WI/FB Austin White Rugby ATL
FB Rory van Vugt Southland (NZ)