Sosene-Feagai Focused on the Future with the Eagles

By Evan Lappen

 

Born in Los Angeles, raised in Samoa, and educated in New Zealand, Michelangelo ‘Mikey’ Sosene-Feagai has gone on quite the journey to play for Old Glory DC and ultimately represent the USA in the United Kingdom during the July international tests. With the final goal to be selected to the USA World Cup squad in two years, Mikey has developed and improved his game since his first cap back in 2016 and looks forward to showing the world what he can do in the future.

Sosene-Feagai was first introduced to rugby when he was little by his two older brothers. It didn’t take long to get noticed by the Samoan U20s as he got his first international experience at the 2012 IRB Junior World Championship. Mikey was then scouted to play at Hawkes Bay Academy and went on to compete at Sacred Heart College and Waikato University.

In 2016, the USA came calling, and Sosene-Feagai was selected as Eagle #474 and played in five games in the Americas Rugby Championship. Starting at hooker against Canada and Uruguay, he gained valuable experience playing international test matches at age 23.

Mikey went on to play for PRO Rugby’s San Diego Breakers in 2016 before heading back to New Zealand for the Mitre 10 Cup. Hooking up with Auckland was one of his best decisions as the team won the championship in 2018, and he scored a try in the final.

In 2019, Sosene-Feagai continued to suit up for Auckland and was selected by the USA for the Pacific Nations Cup. He earned his sixth international cap against Japan, starting the game but the team fell, 34-20. Mikey participated in the World Cup camp but wasn’t chosen for the squad.

“To be honest, during that time I was playing for the USA, I understand why I got dropped,” Sosene-Feagai said. “Once I got selected for the Auckland Mitre 10 team, that’s where most of my knowledge of the game came from. I noticed I probably wasn’t ready at the time for internationals. Comparing myself then to now, I know about the game more from having experience playing in the Mitre 10 Cup, having good coaches, and the guys I’ve played with. With the All Blacks and the Blues Super Rugby boys around the environment, I got to experience and know more of the game.”

The USA World Cup camp wasn’t all for not, as he made some lifetime friendships with Thretton Palamo and Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz. They urged him to come out to DC and join a brand-new team in the MLR.

“At the time, I was 100% no,” Sosene-Feagai indicated. “I had my experience playing in the USA with PRO Rugby, and I didn’t have a good experience then. In my mind, I said I’ll never play rugby here again. It took some time to convince me but I was watching all the highlights of the MLR and it looked like the competition had grown so much here in the States. Finally, I got persuaded and ended up flying to DC.”

Sosene-Feagai played in 2020 with Old Glory, but when the season was cut short by the pandemic, he went back to the Mitre 10 in New Zealand. After the 2021 MLR season was announced, Mikey gladly returned to DC.

“The way I’m playing now is probably the best I’ve played in my career,” Sosene-Feagai said. “Coach Andrew Douglas allows us to have our input, and he’ll consider it. [That process] really developed my game, and I can play the best I can be on the field.”

Mikey has become a prized asset for Coach Douglas, and when he’s not on the pitch, the difference is felt. “He is very good at set-piece time. A pretty accurate thrower and a good scrummager, but he’s pretty mobile around the field as well. He likes to carry the ball and be busy around the park, so his work ethic is very strong.”

Based on his development and abilities, it wasn’t a surprise when the Eagles picked Sosene-Feagai to be the starting hooker against England last weekend.

“Mikey’s set-piece is very good, first and foremost,” USA head coach Gary Gold said. “His lineouts and scrums have gone really well, and his work rate around the park [is excellent]. He’s quite the selection considering his set-piece has gone so well, and his ability to carry the ball has been so effective… We’re going to need his firepower playing against the powers of [England and Ireland].”

Sosene-Feagai sees his role as a set-piece specialist first, but also as a bruiser who isn’t afraid of contact. “My first job will be the set-piece. My focus is accuracy in the lineouts and scrums and my strength is my ball-carrying ability. Nowadays with the hookers, they are considered another loosie on the field, so I like my game there… [Coach Gold] wants the more brutal ball carriers on the field. Guys that can bang and hit on defense and offense.”

Sosene-Feagai believes that wearing the USA jersey is an immense honor and a testament to his family and those who have supported him throughout his life. “It means everything to me. My goal is not just to play in the MLR, it’s to play internationally. I don’t only represent my club, but I represent my family as well. Leaving my family behind in Samoa and them supporting me means everything to me. Knowing the support, they give me with me wearing that jersey is giving back to them.”