Former All Black to helm new MLR club and build toward 2031 ‘moon shot’


The 2031 Rugby World Cup will be held in The United States and the Eagles have plenty of work to do if they are to achieve their lofty ambitions for the tournament.

When competing for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the USA lost to Uruguay and missed the opportunity to compete in France.

Having the tournament hosts announced so far out in advance has handed the USA an opportunity to build towards the World Cup, and build excitement and anticipation among the growing fanbase and player pool in the country.

But following the collapse of New York’s MLR team, the Ironworkers, just a week after the Toronto Arrows met a similar fate, World Rugby stepped in to help assure the league’s standing and ensure player pathways are developed in the country.

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That comes in the form of new MLR club Anthem Rugby Carolina.

In a statement, World Rugby said the new team will “greatly accelerate that high-performance objective by supporting the long-term goals of the USA men’s national team in advance of qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027 (in Australia) and hosting the 2031 edition on home soil”.

“This type of partnership has proven successful for Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-finalists Fiji with the establishment of the Drua, and we are excited about the huge potential of Anthem RC, not just as a pathway but as a major franchise within a long-term vision for MLR success.”

The side will be coached by former All Black Alama Ieremia and announced its 38-player roster for the 2024 pre-season on Saturday.

Ieremia, an assistant with the Eagles in addition to his new role with Anthem RC, has a firm grasp on what the club needs to achieve.

“It’s a push to really drive pathways for American players and eligible players overseas to then lead on to the Eagles,” Ieremia told 1News.

“I’ve got a lot of the academy players which I am passionate about bringing through.”

The emphasis on developing young talent isn’t exclusive to American-based athletes, either. Ieremia says he has an eye on overseas youngsters and has already approached a few players in New Zealand.

“We’re definitely casting the net to say hey were out here now if you’re keen and have any American blood,” said Ieremia.

USA Eagles Head Coach, Scott Lawrence hammered the point home, mentioning All Black great Michael Jones’ son Niko, who currently plays for Washington D.C. team Old Glory.

“Do we look at that type of player? Yes, but they have to have a strong desire to play for the USA,” said Lawrence.

“They have to really want to do it, especially when they want to play for the USA which is an affair of the heart, not the wallet.”

The 2031 Rugby World Cup will be the first edition of the men’s tournament to be held on the American continent, but Lawrence says that trailblazing success in the the American players’ DNA.

“In 1962 JFK said we’d go to the moon and seven years later we did that, seven years from now we have a World Cup and we will be in a quarter-final.

“That’s our moon shot, that’s what we’re going to do.”





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