Action from local college rugby competition
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 03 AUGUST 2018: An American rugby club owner, Richard Osborn is currently in Samoa scouting and recruiting local rugby players to play at a major Rugby League in the United States.
Osborn is the President and owner of the Austin Elite Rugby in Texas and his Samoan counterparts, rugby icon Arona Palamo and coach Uaea Laki Apelu, said it’s an opportunity well provided not only to boost the standard of local rugby players but their future.
Apelu who is not new to providing overseas opportunities for local players, said the opportunities for local players are from European clubs, but the condition for eligibility for these clubs is that they play for the Manu Samoa team.
“With this new American rugby league, the boys play for the US clubs and can return and play for the national team,” said Apelu.
He said currently, only three local players are in the Manu Samoa team and the rest play overseas.
Both Palamo and Apelu agree that there will be a time that 60 to 75% of the national team will be local players and this will be through the arrangement with Richard Osborn and Samoan players.
“This is the first time a club owner has traveled to Samoa to observe and recruit players,” said Apelu.
The arrangement is similar to the Fitzpatrick program that sent 180 young players to develop their rugby skills in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.
“The Major Rugby League has been a longtime dream, and the club owners around the country wanted to boost the level of rugby a little higher, and the goal is having good local players in the US rather than going overseas to the tri nations or six nations to play rugby,” said Osborn.
He said they started this dream two and a half years ago, had a soft season in 2017 for the major rugby championship and in 2018, started their first major rugby league season with 9 clubs.
“The idea was to keep the talent level at a high standard, and not create too many teams when the quality of rugby is a lower,” said Osborn.
The model is that the Major League Rugby is a closed single entity group which basically means the owners of the club also own the League.
The Major Rugby League has no affiliation to the US Rugby Union or World Rugby Union, but that has not stopped the League from discussing possibilities with other countries.
With the Samoa rugby Union, Osborn said they have not established any relationship but the door is open for conversation.
He originally planned to visit Fiji but a chance meeting with Arona Palamo’s son who resides an play rugby for the United States changed his plan.
“He suggested I come and look at Samoa so I changed my plans and decided to visit Samoa first before Fiji.”
Don Tomasi who plays for the Utah Warriors speaks highly of the Major Rugby League and is encouraging young Samoan players to take advantage of it.