The LA Giltinis have signed proven five-eighth Luke Burton in a striking show of the club’s magnetic appeal before even playing a match of Major League Rugby.
Burton was a standout in the five-game undefeated run of the San Diego Legion in February-March before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the 2020 MLR season.
Much as the agile playmaker-goalkicker enjoyed his time in San Diego the lure of playing with a new club on a star-laced roster meant LA won out when the Legion tried to retain him.
At 26, Burton is already a youthful seven-season “veteran” with professional experience in three countries through the Western Force (Australia), Biarritz (France) and the San Diego Legion (USA).
“Playing on an inaugural team is a really special opportunity because you get to build the foundations and write our own legacy as a club,” Burton said.
“Just being involved in MLR for five games showed me rugby is a sleeping giant that is stirring in the USA.
“With a string of wins, the crowds grew, there was greater chat in the community about rugby and more noise from a great group of fans.
“All that and more is possible with the Giltinis because we have world-class depth on our roster and can play a big part in huge growth for MLR.
“Americans love a high-contact sport and helping the momentum of a really appealing competition of fast rugby and good skills is something that motivates me.” The Giltinis and Legion are certain to ignite an edgy MLR rivalry in a corner of California with a proud history of successful sporting franchises.
The 6’0’ (1.82m), 205lb (93kg) Burton began his Force career as a 20-year-old in 2014. He played four seasons, based in his hometown of Perth, before heading to France to further his rugby education in more than 40 games for Biarritz over two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19).
“I never would have imagined my rugby would take me to Los Angeles. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that the game provides,” Burton said.
“I’ll meet people from all around the world at the Giltinis, teammates will become brothers and you have the opportunity to give back to the community.
“The journey for MLR these next few years is going to be special.”
Burton is an avid surfer and has three surfboards waiting at a friend’s place in California for his return to the beaches of the west coast.
Rugby is in his genes because South Africa’s Springbok centre Jesse Kriel is a cousin.
“Luke played for a successful Junior Wallabies team (Under-20s) and debuted in Super Rugby at 20 so he’s gained experience over a long period,” Giltinis head coach Darren Coleman said.
“We are lucky to get hold of him. He’s a more natural No.10 with footwork but he has versatility to play inside centre or fullback as well.”
The Giltinis will kick off their MLR campaign on the weekend of March 20, 2021, with tickets being available by the end of this year.