A trio of top forwards have re-signed with the LA Giltinis for 2022 in a strong show of support for inspirational Championship-winning leader Dave Dennis.
Australian lock Nathan Den Hoedt knocked backed overtures from two Australian Super Rugby clubs to stay in Los Angeles. New Zealand prop Marco Fepulea’i and Canadian-qualified hooker Lindsey Stevens are also back on new one-season deals.
Today’s announcement is a strong positive as the Giltinis continue to unveil the squad that will step up on February 5 to begin the title defence in Major League Rugby.
Dennis, 35, is committed to the second season of his two-year deal after winning plaudits across the league for his expertise as a lock and leader in the 2021 campaign.
The 18-Test Wallaby has now won Championships in three countries with the NSW Waratahs (Australia), Exeter Chiefs (England) and the Giltinis (USA).
“It’s massively exciting to be back on board with the Giltinis for what will be a terrific challenge,” the 251lb (114kg) Den Hoedt said.
“The 2021 Championship year was pretty special but we have to forget it in a sense. This is a new group, every other club will be coming for us and we have to embrace that.”
Den Hoedt, 25 on January 6, said the ongoing presence of Dennis is huge for the Giltinis.
“I was in a full-time program for the first time in 2021 and to be exposed to Dave’s professionalism every week of the season, especially as a lock, has been really beneficial,” Den Hoedt said.
“Dave sets the tone as captain and it’s inspiring. He makes you want to do well and you don’t want to let him down."
Fepulea’i, 26, overcame injury issues to produce his most influential performance when it mattered most in the Championship final victory over Rugby ATL.
For the determined Stevens, 26, the 2022 season will be the chance to fully show what he’s got after a major knee injury ruined 2021. "I'm happy the club has shown faith in me with this signing for another season and I'd definitely like to repay them on the field," Stevens said.
Head coach Stephen Hoiles is delighted that key building blocks for the pack are in place for 2022.
“Dave played big minutes for us in 2021 and always led from the front. He had a tremendous season, not just as a lock but with the way he guided a first-year club,” Hoiles said.
“The job is not yet done for him. He wants to set up the club for 10 years not just one or two.
“Nathan is coming into the best years of his career. He learnt a lot from Dave and will continue to do so.
“Marco was huge for us in the final. He played tighthead and really pushed through the niggles he had.
“Lindsey had a really tough break with his injury but we saw a really good team man. He’d always be sitting on the sidelines at training in a brace and that showed what he’s made of.”
The Giltinis kick-off their Championship defence against the Houston Sabercats in Houston on February 5. Opening Day at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is set for Sunday, February 27 against the New England Free Jacks.