Former Super League team Boston takes on White Plains in the Northeast DI opener this weekend, pitting a team that generally knows where it is against a team still finding itself.
White Plains relies relatively heavily on players who also play rugby league. They hope to bring, then, some game-hardened toughness to the encounter.
Having already beaten New York RFC and the Village Lions in preseason games, White Plains is looking back at a 7-0 spring and thinking they can keep the momentum going.
"We have great numbers and with the recent completion of the American Rugby league season, all of our players are finally back," said Mike Matkovic. "We will lose a few League guys throughout the season due to the Rugby League World Cup in October, but having numbers and players ready to step in will help."
The club has brought in five new recruits that Matkovic is excited about and he will need them, as it's a long season.
"One thing our guys recognize is that it takes many soldiers to win a war and we are looking at the new DI competition as a war," said Matkovic. "It's a longer comp and it spans over two seasons, and every game will be a battle. Having a larger pool of unselfish players ready to setup will be the key to success."
Meanwhile, Boston wants to rebound from a winless Elite Cup spring. They will do it, for the moment, without one of their leading try-scorers and USA hopeful Liam Murphy, who remains injured.
Most of the remainder of the forward pack returns, however, and captain and scrumhalf Sean Treacy, one of those guys constantly overlooked for USA duty, will lead.
Boston has brought in Murphy's brother, Cormack, to slot in at flyhalf. Murphy played for Young Munster and the USA U20s, and at 20 is a young, USA-eligible flyhalf playing top club rugby.
He will partner with Boston's one major import, former U20 Player of the Year for Auckland and a talent from Massey in New Zealand, Niko Ratumaitavuki will patrol center, but can slot in at flyhalf if needed.
Atoa Ripley is a former all-conference player from American International College in Massachusetts, Tim Barford looks to have a bigger role with the team, and Tom Timberlake is an All-Ivy player from Columbia.
"What we've been working on a lot is taking care of the things that don't require skill - the things players can do on their own," said Boston Head Coach Mike Diamantopoulos. "Fitness, power, effort. All of those things matter. We are in good shape because while we have a toughy game to start out with against White Plains, we have a bye the next week. We have only been training for three weeks, but if we have a bad game, we have two weeks to fix things after that."