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Report: All Blacks great Ma'a Nonu set for Major League Rugby return in surprise new role

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Stuart Walmsley/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks star Ma’a Nonu is reportedly set to return to the United States in a move that will see him re-join the San Diego Legion as a player-coach.

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Argentine site A Pleno Rugby reports that French outlet Midi Olympique has indicated Nonu is in line to return to California at the end of his current deal with Top 14 club Toulon.

The 103-test powerhouse signed for a second stint with Toulon as a medical joker last September after playing 77 times for the club between 2015 and 2018.

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Since then, Nonu, who turns 39 next Friday, has featured 14 times for the French juggernauts in the Top 14 and European Champions Cup.

Off-contract at the end of the 2020-21 season, Nonu will reportedly leave the south of France to link back up with the Legion, who he played four times for during the 2020 Major League Rugby season.

During his time in the MLR, the veteran midfielder was a standout in a campaign that was cancelled after five rounds due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Nonu would bring a wealth of experience to his role as a player-coach. With 103 tests and two World Cup crowns to his name, Nonu also won five Tri-Nations/Rugby Championships and eight Bledisloe Cups during his time with the All Blacks.

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He also amassed more than 160 appearances at Super Rugby level with the Hurricanes, Blues and Highlanders, and spent time in Japan with the Ricoh Black Rams during the 2011-12 Top League season.

The position would be Nonu’s first gig as a professional coach, although he served as an assistant coach for amateur club Oriental-Rongotai in Wellington as recently as last year.

Should he make the move back to San Diego, Nonu would join the like of former England captain Chris Robshaw, ex-Springboks wing Bjorn Basson and Los Pumas playmaker Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias in the Legion set-up.

San Diego currently lie in fourth place on the MLR Western Conference standings, 10 points adrift of a play-offs spot with just two wins from eight matches to their name.

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Toulon, meanwhile, are in the midst of a tightly-contested battle for a place in the Top 14 play-offs, sitting in fifth place with three rounds remaining in the French domestic league.

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