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MLR Transfer Watch: Matt Giteau, Joe Taufete'e And Each Club's Best Signing

MLR Transfer Watch: Matt Giteau, Joe Taufete'e And Each Club's Best Signing

A new-look league since the 2023 season ended, MLR clubs have been wheeling and dealing in preparation for 2024's kickoff now just over a month away.

Jan 28, 2024 by Briar Napier
MLR Transfer Watch: Matt Giteau, Joe Taufete'e And Each Club's Best Signing

Major League Rugby has been keeping very, very busy over the past few months.

Two clubs left, but two clubs were added in their place. World Rugby is getting involved in the league. And North America’s top league is returning to one of the world’s biggest media markets, too.

It’s safe to say that actual rugby can get here anytime now, but prior to the league’s opening weekend for the 2024 campaign in March, let’s catch up with all of the wheeling and dealing that’s been going on across the league this offseason - because there’s been a lot of it. 

An international centurion, a former World Rugby Player of the Year nominee and other notable names have either moved to, or within, MLR, adding to all the intrigue for what's shaping up to possibly be one of the league's most chaotic and unpredictable seasons yet.

Are you ready? We are.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable moves made across the league this offseason from every MLR club, as the start of the 2024 season sits just over a month away:

Anthem Rugby Carolina

Jake Turnbull, Prop

Anthem RC has a different approach to signing players compared to other clubs, considering the World Rugby-backed expansion side’s main focus is helping build up players for the men’s national team in the United States. 

That initiative is in line with Carolina’s first announced transaction in acquiring Turnbull via a trade with Seattle earlier this week, with the Australia-born front-rower becoming eligible to play for the Eagles following several years in the MLR and earning his first senior international caps last summer as a developing piece of coach Scott Lawrence’s setup. 

Chicago Hounds

Nate Augspurger, Scrum-Half

A major offseason coup for the Hounds, Chicago made a splash by acquiring Augspurger — last season’s MLR Back of the Year — and bringing in the decorated USA Eagle in a trade with New Orleans in December, after the Gold selected him the MLR Dispersal Draft from the remnants of Rugby New York. 

Augspurger originally had signed with the defunct club in the offseason. 

A two-time first-team All-MLR selection who scored 11 tries last season playing wing for the Western Conference champion San Diego Legion, Augspurger was nothing short of stellar and should be a shot in the arm for the fast-rising Hounds, who trudged to a 3-13 record in 2023.

Dallas Jackals

Ronan Foley, No. 8

The Toronto Arrows’ Player of the Year in 2022, the Ireland-born Foley moved to Seattle for the 2023 season and didn’t have the same impact on the West Coast, even taking a three-month sabbatical to play for Blackheath in the UK, before going back to the United States. 

Seattle dealt him to Dallas via trade in November, and Foley — who has appeared at senior level in his career with Irish provincial powerhouse Leinster — will be looking to rediscover some of his form from two years ago in the Lone Star State. 

Old Glory DC

Jason Robertson, Fly-Half

An old friend to Old Glory, the Zimbabwe-born Robertson is back in the MLR after two years with the Flags in 2020 and 2021, proving his mettle in those seasons as one of the league’s best No. 10s and finishing third in the MLR in points in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. 

Fresh off of helping Top 14 side Bayonne last season qualify to the Champions Cup pool stage for the first time in its history, Robertson is back in the nation’s capital as a dynamic playmaker looking to pick up right where he left off.

Houston SaberCats

Sam Hill, Center

Signing a 30-year-old player with well over 100 appearances in the Premiership to his name? Good on you, Houston. 

Hill spent over a decade playing in England’s top division with the Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks, playing in his younger years at youth level internationally for England, and notably contributed to the Chiefs’ run to their first Champions Cup title in the 2019-2020 season (he had departed for the Sharks before the final, however). 

Expect heavy involvement from the hard-running center in coach Pote Human’s side. 

Miami Sharks

Rob Evans, Prop

Technically, every signing is new down in South Florida, as the first of the two expansion squads announced for the 2024 MLR season makes up its roster, and though longtime Argentina stalwart Tomas Cubelli is another great shout for this slot, former Scarlets and Dragons front-rower Evans brings even more extensive senior international experience as the 31-year-old has acquired 39 caps in his career for Wales. 

Stellar in Wales’ 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam win, Evans, after being released by the Dragons, will hope to make his mark in America.

New England Free Jacks

Martin Sigren, Flanker

The defending league champion boosted its ranks by adding Sigren, already Chile’s most decorated rugby player and a proven leader who’s able to take men to new heights on a rugby pitch. 

Captain of the Chilean side that made its first Rugby World Cup appearance this past year, Sigren — formerly of RFU Championship side Doncaster Knights, making him the first Chilean to play pro rugby in England — was crucial to setting a new standard for rugby in Chile. Can he help the Free Jacks become just the second repeat champ in MLR history, too?

New Orleans Gold

Ed Fidow, Wing

Picked up in the MLR Dispersal Draft after the folding of his prior club, Rugby New York, Fidow will bring some firepower to the edge for NOLA, which ranked in the bottom half in the league a season ago with 46 tries. 

A member of the Samoa national team at the Rugby World Cup, Fidow led the MLR with 12 tries in 2022 and still has searing pace, even at age 30. He should be able to continue to exploit gaps and space well with additional career experience gained with Samoa’s sevens side.

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles

Max Katjijeko, Lock

Another member of the growing, successful Namibia contingent in the MLR, Katjijeko (a two-time World Cup squad member for the Welwitschias) heads to SoCal from the Tel Aviv Heat, an Israeli club that also has front office involvement from many of those in charge at RFCLA. 

Fellow countrymen Wian Conradie and Le Roux Malan were first-team All-MLR selections a season ago, as a sizable chunk of Namibia’s World Cup team applied themselves at the club level in North America. 

Katjijeko now joins them, hoping to make his own mark in the MLR.

San Diego Legion

Matt Giteau, Center

A centurion for the Wallabies as one of Australia’s most legendary rugby players, the now 41-year-old Giteau stunningly was coaxed out of an announced retirement and signed for the Legion in December, noting on X that it would “definitely, definitely” be his final professional season. 

Having won domestic titles in France (with Toulon), Australia (Brumbies), Japan (Suntory Sungoliath) and the United States (LA Giltinis), Giteau has picked a solid spot to try and get one more piece of hardware before riding off into the sunset by signing with the league’s runner-up from last season.

Seattle Seawolves

Joe Taufete’e, Hooker

The only American ever to be nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year (in 2019), the American Samoa-born and California-raised Taufete’e is well-known for being the international leader in tries by a hooker (22) and was acquired this offseason by Seattle from Houston via a trade. 

Back on the West Coast after a stint in 2022 with the LA Giltinis, Taufete’e has one of the most decorated individual resumes ever for an American player and, at 31 years old, should have plenty more left in the tank for the Seawolves, who will be aiming for a third MLR title.

Utah Warriors

Logan Crowley, Scrum-Half

The Warriors have a heavy dose of new signings coming in for 2024, and the New Zealand-born Crowley — the nephew of former All Black player and Italy/Canada coach Kieran Crowley — appears to be one of the best of the bunch. 

The co-captain of last season’s Taranaki team, which won the Bunnings NPC in his native country, he’s likely bound to take over as starting scrum-half in Utah following the departure of Connor McLeod.

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