We find ourselves just one month away from the start of the inaugural season of PRO Rugby North America. Teams have been acquiring talent from all over America, but that talent pool is also set to include a number of international players as well. Take a look at some of the top talent coming in to the league from abroad.
Orene Ai’I- San Francisco
A native from Samoa, Ai’I could perhaps be the most recognizable name on this list. Having moved around from club to club since the early 2000’s (winning the Super Rugby championship with the Blues in 2003), he got his career’s greatest honor in 2005, when he was named the IRB World 7’s player of the year.
Most recently, Ai’I has been representing the NZ club team Life West Chiropractic, as well as representing New Zealand on the IRB Sevens Circuit.
Pedrie Wannenburg- Denver
Most recently making his pitch appearances with the French Rugby Union team Oyonnax, Wannenburg made a name for himself for being a fierce back row player for South Africa’s Rugby Union team The Bulls (no, he wasn’t teammates with Dereck Rose).
Having been allowed to represent the South Africa national team over 20 times in his career, Wannenburg is sure to bring a significant boost in competition on the pitch this year in the PRO Rugby inaugural season.
Micro Bergamasco- Sacramento
Another name with ample experience on the national circuit, Bergamasco has made a total of 89 appearances representing his home country of Italy. Most recently, he has been playing for the Italian Rugby Union team Zebre (Zebras), and appears to have rugby in his blood, as both his father and brother are both respectively a former and current international player.
Bergamasco first made a name for himself in the 2003 6 Nations tournament, where he scored three tries for Italy. Unfortunately, he missed all but two of Italy’s games in the ensuing world cup when he broke his jaw. Fortunately, he was able to rebound during the 2006 6 Nations, where he was considered one of the major standouts of Europe’s largest rugby event.
Phil Mackenzie- San Diego
A native of Ontario, Canada, Phil Mackenzie first made a name for himself as a member of Canada’s U-19 team, as well as both a member of Canada’s Rugby Union and national team. He has also made previous appearances with clubs in England such as Coventry, Esher, and London Welsh.
In 2011, Mackenzie impressed many on the national stage, when he scored two tries in the 2011 World Cup, one of which being the game winner versus Tonga.
If you take a look at each position of the players listed, you notice a trend in wings and centers, which is a smart move if you’re actually trying to get the ball in the try-zone. If you have a strong scrum of bulky and gritty players who can win a ruck, it will pay off dividends if you can get it out to the more experienced players on the outside, who will use their acquired knowledge of the game to finesse the ball up the pitch.
The trend in international experience, in events such as the 6 Nations and RWC, are also very apparent. The young talent of the league is going to have to adjust to a whole new spotlight being shined on them. It won’t hurt to provide some locker room leadership who will have had some experience with life off the pitch as well as one.
Though we can expect some big things from our international signees, the real intrigue lies with the newly acquired American-based talent, most of whom are unknowns in the international scene. Stay tuned for more as the season approaches.
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