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Defending national champion X-Women rugby team has high expectations

Veteran prop Sam Lake will serve as one of the captains this season for the defending national champion X-Women rugby team. Contributed
Veteran prop Sam Lake will serve as one of the captains this season for the defending national champion X-Women rugby team. Contributed - Corey LeBlanc
ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

[Editor's note: The X-Women kicked-off the regular season with a road victory over the UPEI Panthers 73-5. It was the milestone 100th regular season win for veteran head coach Mike Cavanagh.]

he St. F.X. X-Women rugby program never rebuilds – it reloads.    

The defending U Sports national champions have welcomed 12 newcomers to the roster for the 2019 season.    

“We have some really good recruits,” veteran head coach Mike Cavanagh said.    

He added the mix of new and returning players has meant practices during training camp were “very competitive.”    

“We expect that to continue throughout the season,” Cavanagh noted.    

The six-time national champion said the X-Women will have tremendous experience and leadership, including from senior co-captains Sam Lake (prop) and Anna Horner (No. 8).    

“They will have to be huge for us,” Cavanagh noted.    

Fly-half Danielle Franada    and flanker Claudia Fulton, who gained great experience over the summer with Canada’s U-20 program, are also back, while Halifax native Hannah Ellis returns at fly-half.    

“They are going to be a key to any success that we have,” Cavanagh said.    

There is also fourth-year front row Sara McCarron, who spent her summer playing in New Zealand.    

“Rugby is a religion there,” Cavanagh said, noting the benefits the Antigonish native gained from that international opportunity.    

He added McCarron is “fit and ready to go.”

Welcome to X    

The X recruiting class includes U-18 national team products Tashayla Tynes (No. 8) and Emma MacDougall (prop), both of Halifax.    

Freshmen Annie McMullon (prop) and Madison Ross (scrum half) are also expected to make contributions in their first campaigns.    

“I wouldn’t be surprised if two or three of them are in the starting line-up for our first regular season game,” Cavanagh said in the Sept. 4 pre-season conversation. 

Ongoing improvement     

Because the X-Women are a “younger team,” Cavanagh noted, one of the keys to success this season will be “to continuously get better.”    

“There is going to be a learning curve,” he added.    

As the X-Women roster gains “rugby knowledge and experience playing at this level,” there will be improvement.    

“We are a very good team and we expect to be in the hunt, once again, for another national championship,” Cavanagh said.               

In the U Sports pre-season poll, the X-Women were ranked #1. 

Hosting the Huskies    

The X-Women wrapped up training camp with a pair of pre-season, split-squad victories over the rival Acadia Axewomen.    

The Blue and White opened the AUS regular season over the weekend (Sept. 7) with a road match versus the UPEI Panthers.    

Results were unavailable at press time.    

The X-Women kick-off their home campaign Saturday (Sept. 14), when they welcome the Saint Mary’s Huskies.    

Game time is 2 p.m.

   

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