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Major League Rugby is a nice blend of young and old, foreign and domestic, and in a brand new professional league there are bound to be more and more uncovered gems each season. I've decided to compile a list of the best MLR players aged 25 and under from this past season, and to my pleasant surprise this was extremely difficult.
There are some excellent players whom I left off this list, including Seattle's Ben Cima, New England's Brad Hemopo, Toronto's Sam Malcolm and Ben Lasage, and Austin's Tiann Erasmus, just to name a few. I think this goes to show the growing depth of the competition, especially among the younger players; this bodes well moving forward and is encouraging for rugby in America.
Anyways, the 15 players that I have chosen would form a killer squad and one which I believe could contend for a league title. Here they are:
#1. Matt Harmon - NOLA Gold | 24
Harmon is an every game starter for the Gold at the loosehead prop position. The former Life University Running Eagle is an outstanding scrummager and a rock solid defender. His set piece work should propel him into the Eagles setup any time now.
#2. Andrew Quattrin - Toronto Arrows | 23
Quattrin may be renowned for his epic mullet, but he's also one heck of a rugby player. As the main man in the front row of a stellar Arrows pack, Quattrin has long time Canada international written all over him.
#3. Mason Pedersen - Austin Gilgronis | 23
2020 was somewhat of a breakout year for the former Arizona Wildcat. Pedersen added some size over the offseason and was one of the most destructive forwards in the league in the shortened season. Having dealt with neck injuries in 2018 and 2019, Pedersen showed all of us what he can do when healthy, and Gary Gold will surely have taken notice of the youngster from California.
#4. Siaosi Mahoni - San Diego Legion | 23
Mahoni is the biggest player in the entire league at 6'8, 295 lbs, and is a fierce presence around the pitch. The California native debuted for the Eagles as a 20 year old in 2017, and is one to keep an eye on for the future.
#5. Ignacio Dotti - NOLA Gold | 25
Dotti has been one of the best Uruguayan players since his debut as a 20 year old in 2015. With 46 caps already to his name, Ignacio could be headed for triple digit appearances for Uruguay. He was a key figure in their upset over Fiji at the World Cup and is one of MLR's best locks.
#6. Potu Leavasa Jr. - Austin Gilgronis | 24
Potu was a great find in 2020 for the Gilgronis. The 24 year old Samoan "A" international was one of the standout defensive players in the league this season, and demonstrated some extremely fine skills with ball in hand. His versatility is one of the best traits about him, as he can play anywhere in the second or the back row.
#7. Hanco Germishuys - Rugby United New York | 23
If you follow United States rugby even in the least bit, you're likely well familiar with Hanco Germishuys. Originally from South Africa, Hanco moved to Nebraska at a young age and has been one of the best rugby players in the nation since. He's made 21 appearances for the Eagles and seems headed for many more. He's now played on three MLR franchises in three years, and was named the 2018 MLR Player of the Year.
#8. Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz - Old Glory DC | 24
Fa'anana-Schultz made the move from the Houston Sabercats to upstart Old Glory DC in 2020 and the decision paid off. He emerged as one of the best back rowers in the league, and looks poised to build upon his pair of USA caps earned in 2019.
#9. John Poland - New England Free Jacks | 23
The young Irishman was one of the most impressive halfbacks in the league this year for the Free Jacks. Although the Free Jacks only won one of five matches in 2020, it was through no fault of Poland. They had one of the most exciting attacks in MLR, and could have won any of the games the played.
#10. Jason Robertson - Old Glory DC | 25
The Bay of Plenty fly-half from New Zealand's Mitre 10 Cup was arguably the best fly-half in the entire league. His distribution, organization, and overall game awareness spearheaded a lethal Old Glory backline. His kicking was solid as well, both off the tee and from hand. Hopefully he returns for more MLR action in 2021.
#11. Tira Patterson - San Diego Legion | 22
The young Fijian winger is an absolute handul. He's big, he's fast, he's skilled, and he's physical. Should Patterson live long enough in the United States to qualify for the Eagles, he could be a staple on the wing by the next World Cup.
#12. Guiseppe du Toit - Toronto Arrows | 24
Du Toit had some big shoes to fill this season when fellow youngster Stephen Jones (22) was forced to miss the season due to injury. The big du Toit though filled in extremely well and shined in a stellar Toronto Arrows unit that topped the Eastern Conference table before the shutdown.
#13. Troy Lockyear - Rugby United New York | 23
Lockyear burst onto the scene in Round 2 against the Gilgronis, running for nearly 200 meters, scoring two tries, and coming up with the game-sealing interception. The former Cal Golden Bear is a long, shifty, speedster who is highly skilled. With a keen mind for the game to go with, he will likely be apart of many more MLR Teams of the Week.
#14. Save Totovosau - San Diego Legion | 24
Opposite his fellow Fijian winger on San Diego, Totovosau is equally dangerous for the Legion. His running style makes the game of rugby look easy for him, while it's anything but for his opponents. Look for Totovosau to continue lighting up the league in Southern California moving forward.
Week 3 | Try of the Week— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) February 24, 2020
@SDLegion’s Save Totovosau earned the MLR Try of the Week with the perfect kick assist from Luke Burton!
See all #MLR2020 week three highlights on the MLR YouTube playlist, here: https://t.co/6dWXinbU1J pic.twitter.com/b5vYFCdWXR
#15. Mason Emerson - Colorado Raptors | 23
Another former Mitre 10 player, Hawke's Bay's Mason Emerson came over to the states this past season to join Colorado in what would be the Raptors' final season in MLR. He was starting to really come into form in the final few weeks of the campaign, as the Raptors were looking like one of the top squads in the competition. At only 5'8, he's not the biggest, but he's quick, plays at high intensity, and packs a punch for his small frame.