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Hawaii-based team set to join Major League Rugby for 2021

It has been reported that several big-name former All Blacks are behind the expansion bid.

MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY is set to welcome a Hawaii-based team to the North American league in 2021.

MLR confirmed it has received an expansion bid from the Kanaloa Hawai’i club and that the initial application for membership has been accepted.

While the two parties must now enter into “an exclusive negotiating period to finalize terms” before a MLR board vote, it’s a hugely exciting move for rugby in Hawaii.

nfl-preseason-dallas-cowboys-at-los-angeles-rams It's believed Aloha Stadium, which currently hosts American football games, is part of the long-term plans. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

MLR says it received “thorough plans for a team in the Hawai’i market” and that the group behind this project “are extremely knowledgeable and experienced.”

According to Djcoilrugby in the US, Joe Rokocoko, Jerome Kaino, John Afoa, Anthony Tuitavake and Benson Stanley – five ex-All Blacks of Pacific Island heritage – make up the ownership team behind this expansion bid.

The Kanaloa Hawai’i club will be expected to provide major opportunities for the many players of Pacific Island heritage in Hawaii and further afield.

Munster prop Roman Salanoa is a native of Hawaii and first played the sport on his home island of Oahu before featuring for the USA U20s and then impressing on a trial with Leinster, who he initially joined in 2017.

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Several other young Hawaiian players have attracted attention from European clubs since Salanoa’s move.

MLR says the ownership group behind Kanaloa Hawai’i “have developed and presented an in-depth approach that ingrains the rich rugby history in Hawaii and MLR can confirm that this has the potential to become a strong and unique market within the league.”

While travelling to Hawaii will be a big undertaking for the other MRL clubs, it appears concerns in that area have been overcome and this project is moving forward at pace.

The next step is for Kanaloa Hawai’i to meet the set expansion terms, including an expansion fee. If those terms are met, a board vote will ratify the club as the 14th MLR member for the 2021 season. 

MLR had its first season in 2018 with seven clubs but had expanded to 12 teams in two conferences by this year’s campaign, which was cut short due to Covid-19. 

The LA Giltinis, based in Venice Beach, were confirmed as a new club for 2021 back in May.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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