Recruiting the hitting power of former USA Eagle Langilangi Haupeakui has added to the impressive forward pack being assembled by the LA Giltinis.
Today’s exciting announcement again highlights the Giltinis’ desire to harness top American talent for the club’s maiden voyage in Major League Rugby from March 2021.
Signing the ‘San Francisco Savage’ for two years is shrewd scouting by the Giltinis because Haupeakui, 31, had largely been off the radar and not involved in MLR until now.
At amateur level, the San Mateo College alumnus last season had a strong impact for Life West Gladiators in Hayward in the San Francisco Bay Area.
His top-level credentials are well established. He played three Tests off the bench for the Eagles in 2016 before a brief 2016-17 stint with Glasgow Warriors in Scotland.
He is renowned for his thundering tackles and running in a whirl of dreadlocks because his 255lb (116kg), 6’ 1” (185cm) frame is all persuasive Tongan power.
“It was great news to hear about a LA club starting up because I’ve got a lot of family and friends just a drive away from supporting this new team,” Haupeakui said.
“Bringing in players who have been around the game for a long time to give young players knowledge and background is really smart from the Giltinis to build the club.
“Man, I’m in shock every day when I see the next new signing the club has made and it’s going to be an honour to play beside these players.”
Haupeakui played in the backrow at Glasgow Warriors with Scottish international Adam Ashe, the big-name Giltinis recruit who rates him as “extremely dynamic and a player I’d rather have on my team than against me.”
Off the field, Haupeakui works as an electrician so the chance to immerse himself in rugby full-time will create sparks of a different kind.
“Honestly, when I came back from Scotland (in 2017) I kind of lost the love for rugby but I found the spark again with Life West most recently and am grateful for this chance in LA,” Haupeakui said.
“If we buy in as players and do what the coaches say I’ve no doubt the Giltinis can go all the way to a championship but hard work comes first.
“I played with Sacramento (Express) in the one season of PRO Rugby (2016) and you can just see how MLR is growing with TV games, new teams and more support.”
Haupeakui has a strong supporter in Giltinis assistant coach Orene Ai’i, the former New Zealand sevens star who played against him as a player in the San Francisco area.
“Langilangi is gifted and athletic with a real physical presence on attack and defence,” Ai’i said.
“It’s really important to have experienced American players to look up to and show the pathway possible for players to strive for across California.”
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.