Jacksonville Sports Day

RUGBY: Americans Right at Home in Rhinos Jacksonville Camp

The 25-man Leeds Rhinos squad has been boosted during their training camp in Jacksonville with the addition of two local players who are getting the chance to experience the full time training environment of a Super League club for the first time.

Centres Terence Williams of the Atlanta Rhinos and Joseph Eichner from the Jacksonville Axemen, joined up with the squad on their arrival with Williams also staying at the team hotel with the group.

Both Williams and Eichner are still in college and represent the next generation of players from the USA. They were both standouts during the 2014 season and both earned awards at their respective clubs due to their performance

Williams joined the Atlanta Rhinos after he was noticed during a Rugby Union game when playing for Georgia Southern University. Spinner Howland was in Atlanta during the creation of the new Atlanta team and had a chance to watch a college game where it was clear that Williams was a standout.

 “After the game I went to Terrance and handed him a flyer about a Rugby League team coming to Atlanta and hoped he would consider attending camp. He showed up in great shape, took a serious approach and was eager to learn from the coaching staff. He made the starting team from day one.”

Williams had a great first season in League and he continues to be a stand out for his College Union team as well. This will be his second USA Pioneers appearance after a strong performance against the New Zealand Blue Thunder Police team in Deland on August 16.

Eichner joined the Axemen from the University of North Florida Rugby Union team after hearing stories from other UNF Alumni who were playing the 13-man code over the summer. Coach Matt Keeley was instantly impressed with his fitness and ability to learn fast. He is basically built for contact sports, and at the end of the USARL season put on a “Tackling Clinic” during the National Championship. Like Williams he continues to play both codes and is pretty much a year round athlete. Both players will play for the USA Pioneers on January 11 when they face off against the Leeds Rhinos in Jacksonville.

However, before then they have immediately fitted into the Rhinos squad travelling to training with their new ‘team mates’ and getting to know the squad. In return, the Leeds players have welcomed them into the group and used the opportunity to learn more about the fledgling game over in the States.

Speaking about the players, Jamie Jones-Buchanan said, “I think it is great that the lads are able to join in with us. We are all passionate about Rugby League and about seeing it grow. By encouraging these players it spreads the word about our game and whilst that might not see a massive growth in the short term however in incremental steps it takes us forward and gives a chance for the game to develop and thrive. Terence and Joe have been great, we have made sure they feel welcome in the group and they have grabbed the chance with both hands.”

Fans are encouraged to make plans to attend the USA Pioneers vs. Leeds Rhinos game that will be played in Jacksonville on Sunday, January 11. (2pm kickoff) Advance Tickets are  $7.50.

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