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One of the newest MLR franchises has struck one of the most dynamic independent agreements in league history, as the New England Free Jacks will welcome the developmental sides from all four Irish provinces in the spring. Each visiting side wills scrimmage the Free Jacks once and another provincial side once.
The four provinces produce Ireland’s professional clubs, and these sides are full of future pros. Given the Irish influence in the city of Boston, this may drum up some much needed expat interest for the new franchise.
“We have a year to develop a high performing professional rugby club, on and off the field, and there is no more fitting and exciting way than to bring the tradition and excellence of Ireland Rugby to New England,” newly announced Chief Executive of the Free Jacks, Alex Magleby.
“We very much look forward to hosting our Irish friends with open arms, treating them to classic New England hospitality with a boisterous crowd and worthy match day experiences.”
For the provinces, the series provides an additional development opportunity, above and beyond their own domestic structures.
"The New England Free Jacks are in an exciting phase of their development as they continue to build towards competing in Major League Rugby in 2020,” said Ireland’s performance director David Nucifora.
“This series of games provides valuable exposure for our emerging talent and one which we believe will be mutually beneficial to both Irish and US Rugby."
One of the few current Free Jacks is Tadhg Leader. The former Connacht and San Diego Legion flyhalf got his start in America in Boston, playing for the Irish Wolfhounds, before landing at Lindenwood. He took to Twitter to express his feelings over the announcement:
“Exactly what we need before entering a highly competitive MLR year 3. I’m sure the Irish boys can’t wait to get over here, beats playing an A game in the valleys of Wales!”
3.16.18 Connacht vs. Free Jacks
3.20.18 Connacht vs. Ulster
3.24.18 Ulster vs. Free Jacks
4.6.18 Munster vs. Free Jacks
4.10.18 Munster vs. Leinster
4.14.18 Leinster vs. Free Jacks