Ex-Connacht academy man Leader makes try-scoring debut for USA

FORMER CONNACHT ACADEMY out-half Tadhg Leader made a try-scoring debut for the USA in their 71-8 win over Chile in the Americas Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Galway man was a second-half replacement for starting 10 AJ MacGinty – another Ireland native – in the Eagles’ rout of the Chileans and Leader had a straightforward finish for his try just minutes after coming onto the pitch.

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Having featured prominently in the sweeping build-up to his try, Leader slotted the touchline conversion and later added another conversion with the final act of the game as the US ran out comfortable winners in Santiago.

Leader moved to the States in 2015 on a scholarship offer from Lindenwood University in Missouri, subsequently joining the St. Louis Royals club as a player/coach.

He was with Major League Rugby club San Diego Legion for the 2018 season but is now a key man for the New England Free Jacks side that will welcome the Irish province’s A teams to Boston in March and April, before joining MLR in 2020.

Leader, who qualifies due to three years of residency, was part of the US Men’s Selects squad last September and then toured Europe with Gary Gold’s senior national team in November, learning their systems ahead of his planned debut this year.

That arrived against Chile on Saturday when Leader, whose brother Darragh plays for Connacht, came off the bench to make an impact as the US started their Americas Rugby Championship title defence in style. 

The Eagles are away to Argentina XV in this weekend’s second round of the championship and Leader will hope for further Test match exposure.

Dublin man MacGinty scored a hat-trick of tries and five conversions in the big US win, while Cork man John Quill started at openside flanker and Aran Islands native Paul Mullen was the tighthead replacement.

The Eagles’ attack coach, Irishman Greg Williams, would have been pleased with his team’s 11-try haul.

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