Major League Rugby Weekly – 23/12/2020

Published by Christie Gilmartin23rd December 2020
Major League Rugby Weekly - 23/12/2020

Five More Faces At The Giltinis

Sione Tuihalamaka:

The huge prop has been developing with the Legion, since switching from American Football. He had previously been a Defensive Linesman, with the University Of Arizona Wildcats. The 29 year old has been developing well and his huge frame could become a cornerstone of the Giltinis Scrum, especially under the tutelage of Scrum Coach Alex Corbisiero. The Giltinis have already signed the Smith twins and Blake Rogers, in the propping department, and they are building a hugely powerful scrum. Tuihalamaka offers more than just scrummaging, with some serious power around the pitch. It is a further sign of the Giltinis commitment, to improving local talent and giving them a chance to shine in a professional environment. Tuihalamaka has signed a one year deal and he will be doing everything he can to get that extended and bring success to this side.

Angus Cottrell:

This is another fantastic signing by the Giltinis. Cottrell has one hell of an engine and offers huge amounts on both defence and attack. He is a leader from the Back Row and naturally leads by example, as well as his words. Cottrell brings heaps of experience with him and has played 90 games of Super Rugby. This signing is just another example of the pulling power of Major League Rugby and another example of how strong this first year team could be. The 31 year old has spent nine years playing Professional Rugby in Australia and has helped two teams through the early stages of their history. His knowledge of how to build a team culture, through his time with the Rebels and Force, will be invaluable. The 6 foot 3 flanker, is another option at lineout time and can lead the defensive line.

Luca Tani:

Austin Gilgronis Second Row Luca Tani has made the Loyals Rugby switch, to the LA Giltinis, for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. The 6 foot 4 Lock made three appearances in total and will be looking for more appearances, in the season to come. The 25 year old has been developing year on year and has even more room for development. Tani came to the attention of LA Giltinis Skills Coach Orene Ai’i, during their time working together at San Francisco Golden Gate. It was at the Pacific Premiership Club, that Tani really stepped his game up. He was late to the game, after only taking up Rugby at 19 year old, but Tani was built to play Rugby. He’s strong, mobile, physical and has great handling skills. Tani will continue his development with the Giltinis, as they forge their own playing style, in their inaugural season of Major League Rugby. A strong season in LA, could put Tani in USA Eagles contention.

Charlie Abel:

Charlie Abel is a 28 year old Front Row from Australia. He primarily plays Tighthead Prop, but can cover the entire Front Row and that versatility is a huge plus for the Giltinis. He is well known to the Giltinis’ coaching team, after playing for Head Coach Darren Coleman, for the title winning Gordon Side in Sydney. It has been a big year for the 118kg Prop, after making his debut for the Super Rugby Side Melbourne Rebels. He seems to be getting better with every season and will relish the opportunity to work with Giltinis Scrum Coach Alex Corbisiero.

Vise Leasi:

Vise Leasi looks to be a real prospect. The Samoan was on fire for Belmont Shore, when he joined in 2018. He has pace, power, footwork and some serious finishing ability. Leasi has been playing his rugby for the Tacoma Nomads in Washington, so will be in good shape for the March start date. Leasi has had a successful start to his rugby career. He won the World Rugby Under 20s Trophy, with Samoa in 2016, following on from his Bronze Medal at the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games. Leasi has a strong background in Rugby Sevens, due to his pace, but has tacked on a lot of muscle and will be looking to impose himself in the pro league. Vise Leasi has the potential to be an absolute superstar, so keep an eye on him next season.

Seattle Seawolves Continue To Lock In Their Roster

The Seattle have re-signed a further two players from their 2020 roster, as they ramp up preparations for 2021. Utility Back Suliasi Tamaivena and Hooker Mike Shepherd, will be returning for another season with the franchise.

Suliasi Tamaivena has followed in his brothers’ footsteps and re-signed for the Seattle Seawolves, for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. The two were part of the wider squad last season and have now been given full contracts, after impressing. Tamaivena started out at MT. San Antonio College, where he spent three years on a football scholarship. He finished his college career at Utah State. The exciting speedster then made his transition back into rugby, playing sevens for the Westside Ronins, in Washington. Tamaivena will now look to push on and nail down a starting spot, in this Seawolves side, as they go in search of a third title.

Mike Shepherd will be in his fourth season with the side, after winning the MLR shield twice, since joining in 2018. Shepherd was born in Indiana and earned All-American Honours, while playing at Indiana University and the University of Utah. The 31 year old has been consistently good for a number of years now and is a handy Front Row to have in your squad. He played in four of the five 2020 matches, but has struggled with injuries at times. When he is on the field, Shepherd is all action and gets through heaps of work. He has played his club rugby for the Seattle Saracens since 2013 and is a recognisable face on the Seattle Rugby scene, from his playing and coaching of local sides. Another useful player has been locked in, as the Seawolves ramp up their 2021 preparations.

Sydney Shoop Joins The Austin Gilgronis

The Austin Gilgronis have signed Rugby ATL 4040 Pathway Scrum Half Sid Shoop, for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. The former Seattle Saracens and University of Arizona player has impressed during preseason for the 4040 Pathway, where he played five games. The 20 year old has a strong passing game and is continuously developing his game and how he controls the tempo.

The potential USA Eagle will battle it out with two quality Scrum Halves in Marcelo Torrealba and Pele Cowley, for a starting spot. Head Coach Sam Harris has already said that Shoop will get game time and hasn’t just been brought in as cover, but to challenge for the nine shirt. With the MLR having a limit on non-USA qualified players in a starting line-up, Sydney Shoop will be guaranteed game time. That game time has tempted him away from Rugby ATL, as he becomes another quality bit of recruitment by the Gilgronis.

Sef Fa’aGase Joins The Free Jacks

The New England Free Jacks have signed former Queensland Reds and Highlanders Prop Sef Fa’agase, for the next two Major League Rugby seasons. Sef Fa’agase has had an interesting career so far, having played professional rugby in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. He now makes his way to Major League Rugby and this exciting collection of players, that the Free Jacks have assembled. The 29 year old Prop can play on either side of the Scrum and provides some serious power around the field. Fa’agase joins the likes of Kensuke Hatakeyama and fellow new Prop signings Xandre Vos and Erich De Jager, in the Free Jacks Front Row. Fa’agase brings 49 caps of Super Rugby experience, with him to the Free Jacks, form his time with the Reds and Highlanders. He has also spent time playing for both Canon Eagles and Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japanese Top League. He has also played for Brisbane City, in the National Rugby Championships (NRC – Australia), as well as Wellington, Canterbury and most recently Otago, in the Mitre 10 Cup. Just check out the highlight reel for this prop and get a glimpse of how good he is going to be, in Major League Rugby.

Two Players Re-Sign For The Sabercats

The Houston Sabercats have re-signed Back Row Forwards Adriaan Booysen and Diego Magno, for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. These were two of the standout Forwards for the Sabercats last season. They are both Internationals and have both played in Rugby World Cups.

Adriaan Booysen:

The big Namibian Back Row adds some real bulk and power, to this Sabercats outfit. He stands at 6 foot 3 and is nearly 18 stone, using that weight to it’s full effect during carries. The 24 year old is a Namibian International and featured in two of their three games, at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Booysen previously played for Welwitschias, in the Currie Cup and Super Sport Series. He primarily plays Number 8 and featured in all five of The Sabercats 2020 games. He looks set to be a fixture at the base of the scrum for the season to come.

Diego Magno:

The most capped international player in Uruguayan history just seems to get better and better. Magno made his international debut back in 2008 and has been a fixture in the side since, including two Rugby World Cups. He has also been an incredibly important player, for the Sabercats, since joining for the 2019 season. He provides a huge amount of front foot ball with his carries, dominates the air at lineout time and puts in huge defensive shifts. His versatility sees him cover the whole Back Row, as well as Lock. The Montevideo born 31 year old, still has plenty left to give and will try to propel the Sabercats into the race for the MLR Shield.

San Diego Legion Sign Argentinian International

San Diego Legion have announced the signing of former Jaguares Back and Argentina International Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. The talented Los Pumas International is another eye catching signing by the Legion, who have already recruited the likes of Chris Robshaw, Bjorn Basson, Cecil Afrika and Cam Clark. Iglesias is primarily a Fly Half, and covers the loss of Luke Burton, to the Giltinis, but his versatility is a huge asset. The 32 year old has played international rugby, in a number of backline positions, including both Centre positions and Full Back. Another quality player has joined Major League Rugby, as this competition get stronger and stronger.

The Buenos Aires born player has played for a number of Argentinian clubs. He rose through the Argentinian ranks, after being capped internationally in 2011. He has registered 41 caps for Los Pumas and scored some vital points for the side. He played at the 2015 Rugby World Cup and impressed in his three appearances. In his club career, Iglesias has played for the likes of Asociacion Alumni, Pampas XV and the Argentinian Super Rugby side Jaguares. Most recently, he spent a year with Japanese Top League side Munakata Sanix Blues and will now get a taste of in the USA.

Dallas Jackals Announcements

The Dallas Jackals are excited to announce Valenese “Nese” Malifa has joined the Jackals coaching staff as Assistant Coach. The former USA Eagle fly half also has seven years of coaching experience including two seasons in the MLR. On the international stage, Malifa has represented the USA in three Rugby World Cups (15’s & 7’s) in 2007, 2009 and 2011. In 2010, Malifa and his identical twin brother Ata Malifa moved to Denver, Colorado and helped the Glendale Raptors secure their very 1st National Championship. 

Malifa began his coaching career in 2013 when he started shadowing Mike Friday, Head Coach of the USA 7’s team. This led to an opportunity for him to coach the USA Falcons in South America and Las Vegas. In 2015, Malifa joined the Tiger Rugby coaching team which allowed him to coach many teams and tournaments across the US including a D1 National Championship with the Life West Women’s team in Hayward, California. Most recently, Malifa made his mark as Assistant Coach for fellow MLR team Rugby ATL. In the MLR offseason, he was the Head Coach of Rugby ATL’s Pathway 404 men’s team. Pathway 404 provides resources and opportunities for regional players and coaches to advance their skills and career. 

The Jackals have also announced the signings of two more development players. They have brought in the talennt of Ma’ake Muti and Nate Lyon.  

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