The Ohio Aviators are making a surprise return to the rugby field. Four years after their last game in the now-defunct PRO Rugby, the team has been revived with a new logo to compete in the newly-created World Tens Series that will take place in Bermuda starting late next month.
There are links to the old team in both the tournament management and the team itself. Former Aviators coach Paul Holmes is the Chief Operating Officer of the World Tens Series, while Aviators manager Tom Rooney is listed as the Director of the new team.
Former players on the roster include Kyle Baillie, Dylan Fawsitt, Riekert Hattingh, JP Eloff, and Shawn Riley. Taylor Howden and Zack Stryffeler were also on the team but are this time part of the traveling staff. All seven suited up as players during the 2020 Major League Rugby season.
In fact all but two names on the roster are linked to MLR teams. Ohio State prop Spencer Krueger was drafted by the New England Free Jacks, while Bryce Campbell is listed with the Austin Gilgronis though the team is yet to formally confirm the signing.
Austin Blacks prop and US Eagles international Chris Baumann has thus far rejected the call of MLR but will make the trip. South African midfielder Tiaan Loots played for the SaberCats during the 2020 season but has since been released and should resurface with another club in 2021.
Baumann is one of ten full internationals on the roster. Also capped by the USA are Fawsitt, Eloff, Campbell, Ben Cima, Will Magie, Shalom Suniula, and Peter Tiberio. Representing Canada are NOLA Gold pair Baillie and Eric Howard. Assistant Coach Kane Thompson, also of NOLA, played for Samoa.
Three rounds of matches will be played across two weeks at the National Stadium in Devonshire. The opening round will take place on October 24th and 25th, the second round October 31st and November 1st, and the finals on November 7th.
It’s not clear yet how many teams will be participating with only one other team confirmed thus far – SX10 from South Africa, coached by former Blitzboks star Frankie Horne. The tournament will not be open to spectators but will be streamed worldwide.
FORWARDS Kyle Baillie (NOLA Gold), Chris Baumann (Austin Blacks), Dylan Fawsitt (Rugby United New York), Riekert Hattingh (Seattle Seawolves), Eric Howard (NOLA Gold), Spencer Krueger (New England Free Jacks), John Sullivan (NOLA Gold), Brad Tucker (Seattle Seawolves)
BACKS Bryce Campbell (Austin Gilgronis), Ben Cima (Seattle Seawolves), JP Eloff (NOLA Gold), Tiaan Loots (unattached), Will Magie (Austin Gilgronis), Shawn Riley (NOLA Gold), Cristian Rodriguez (Belmont Shore), JP Smith (Seattle Seawolves), Shalom Suniula (Seattle Seawolves), Peter Tiberio (Seattle Seawolves)
STAFF Head Coach – Taylor Howden Assistant Coach – Kane Thompson Manager – Zack Stryffeler Medical Director – Richard Quincy Director – Tom Rooney