The LA Giltinis have signed exciting Canadian Test centre Ben LeSage to sharpen the edge to their Championship-winning backline for 2022.
Today’s announcement that the 24-Test standout is joining the club from the Toronto Arrows is a major positive with the kick-off to the new Major League Rugby season just 11 weeks away.
LeSage, 25, is a youthful package of experience, defensive power, work ethic, leadership and line-breaking speed to fit the attacking mindset of the Giltinis.
He has been signed on a two-year deal from Toronto in a trade for flanker James O’Neill, a third-round selection in the 2022 MLR Collegiate Draft, and salary cap considerations.
LeSage says he is eager to take his game to the next level as a professional player and feels the Giltinis’ set-up can help him do that.
“I’m definitely appreciative of Toronto and the Arrows giving me my first professional contract. Now, I’m up for a new adventure and learning from some of the best who’ve ever played the game,” LeSage said.
“Playing against the Giltinis last season, you pretty quickly realised they were the real deal. Joining MLR’s defending champions is a great opportunity to improve as a rugby player in a really good team environment that gained the respect of the league in year one.”
The 6’0” (1.83m), 216lb (98kg) LeSage had his own outstanding 2021 campaign recognised. He was named as outside centre in the All-MLR First Team selected from the competition’s 12 clubs.
LeSage says a big attraction is the chance to work with Wallabies great Adam Ashley-Cooper, the decorated outside centre who has switched to assistant coach since retiring after his prominent role in the Championship victory.
“It was cool to play against Adam but I’m now really looking forward to a big brain dump in terms of learning all I can from him as a coach,” LeSage said.
“DTH (van der Merwe) is someone I tried to learn from during our time together with Canada. This year, I got to play at international level with (forward) Corey Thomas so they are both familiar faces in the Giltinis team.”
Giltinis head coach Stephen Hoiles is looking forward to LeSage joining training for the February 5 season-opener against the Houston SaberCats in Houston.
The Calgary-born recruit is instantly a candidate to replace Ashley-Cooper in the side. His experience in MLR, with 18 games in two seasons for the Arrows, gives him a flying start.
“With the departure of Adam and Glenn Bryce, it was really important to fill our backline vacancies with mature, level-headed players who have an edge,” Hoiles said.
“We are delighted to have signed Ben. He has a massive engine in terms of workrate in games, he’s a leader in defence and he has speed and swerve as an attacker.
“He’s a real team-first character and I like that.”