The LA Giltinis have significantly beefed up their front-row stocks with the astute signing of New Zealand prop Marco Fepulea’i.
Today’s announcement means Fepulea’i, 25, is on the way to Los Angeles after being picked up in January’s dispersal draft of players from the grounded Dallas Jackals.
Fepulea’i has top-level credentials to go with his size at 269 lbs (122kg) and 6’ 0” (1.83m). Auckland’s 2018 Mitre 10 Cup success is the peak of his ongoing career in NZ’s domestic competition and he will arrive sharpened by pre-season training with the Blues’ Super Rugby squad.
His taste of Major League Rugby with the Glendale (Colorado) Raptors in 2019 and 2020 has also prepared him to make an immediate mark at the Giltinis.
“I see myself taking a step forward at the Giltinis, not a step back, because of the coaching staff and players, who are able to compete to win from the start,” Fepulea’i said.
“That’s a big thing for me because team success is one of the main reasons I play.
“I was pretty gutted when the Dallas news came out of the blue but this is an exciting new LA team I want to be a part of in an exciting city.”
Fepulea’i said working with scrum coach Alex Corbisiero, the former British and Irish Lions prop, was an incentive to find ways to keep improving as a tighthead prop.
Fepulea’i joins Blake Rogers, Mafi Seanoa, Charlie Abel, JP and Ruan Smith and Sione Tuihalamaka as props on the strong Giltinis’ roster.
“Having played MLR since 2019 I know how much it has improved, how players understand the game more and how set-piece orientated it can be at times,” Fepulea’i said.
“Getting to experience a different country and lifestyle was part of heading to the USA in the first place. I’ve played in the snow in Colorado and now I get to do it in the sun of LA.
“The way that (head coach) Darren Coleman sold to me how he wants the team to play was another big positive in LA feeling like the right choice.”
His signing wins a big tick from those rugby hardheads who believe the most important position in a rugby team is tighthead prop and the second most vital role player is the reserve tighthead prop.
He also has rugby pedigree in his family with uncles Pat Lam and the late Dylan Mika both having represented the All Blacks.
“We’ve been very lucky to secure a player of Marco’s talent so late in the recruitment process,” Coleman said.
“This is further enhanced by the fact, with the MLR classification of Dallas foreign players, that he will play for us classed as a ‘local’ player.
“He’s coming in hot off Blues’ pre-season training in Auckland and we are very excited to see a quality tighthead prop join our group.”
The Giltinis will kick off their MLR campaign at home against the New England Free Jacks on March 20.