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Former All Black to helm new MLR club and build toward 2031 'moon shot'

By Ned Lester
Coach Alama Ieremia of Auckland looks on during the Bunnings NPC Quarter Final. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

The 2031 Rugby World Cup will be held in The United States and the Eagles have plenty of work to do if they are to achieve their lofty ambitions for the tournament.

When competing for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the USA lost to Uruguay and missed the opportunity to compete in France.

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Having the tournament hosts announced so far out in advance has handed the USA an opportunity to build towards the World Cup, and build excitement and anticipation among the growing fanbase and player pool in the country.

But following the collapse of New York’s MLR team, the Ironworkers, just a week after the Toronto Arrows met a similar fate, World Rugby stepped in to help assure the league’s standing and ensure player pathways are developed in the country.

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That comes in the form of new MLR club Anthem Rugby Carolina.

In a statement, World Rugby said the new team will “greatly accelerate that high-performance objective by supporting the long-term goals of the USA men’s national team in advance of qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027 (in Australia) and hosting the 2031 edition on home soil”.

“This type of partnership has proven successful for Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-finalists Fiji with the establishment of the Drua, and we are excited about the huge potential of Anthem RC, not just as a pathway but as a major franchise within a long-term vision for MLR success.”

The side will be coached by former All Black Alama Ieremia and announced its 38-player roster for the 2024 pre-season on Saturday.

Ieremia, an assistant with the Eagles in addition to his new role with Anthem RC, has a firm grasp on what the club needs to achieve.

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“It’s a push to really drive pathways for American players and eligible players overseas to then lead on to the Eagles,” Ieremia told 1News.

“I’ve got a lot of the academy players which I am passionate about bringing through.”

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The emphasis on developing young talent isn’t exclusive to American-based athletes, either. Ieremia says he has an eye on overseas youngsters and has already approached a few players in New Zealand.

“We’re definitely casting the net to say hey were out here now if you’re keen and have any American blood,” said Ieremia.

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USA Eagles Head Coach, Scott Lawrence hammered the point home, mentioning All Black great Michael Jones’ son Niko, who currently plays for Washington D.C. team Old Glory.

“Do we look at that type of player? Yes, but they have to have a strong desire to play for the USA,” said Lawrence.

“They have to really want to do it, especially when they want to play for the USA which is an affair of the heart, not the wallet.”

The 2031 Rugby World Cup will be the first edition of the men’s tournament to be held on the American continent, but Lawrence says that trailblazing success in the the American players’ DNA.

“In 1962 JFK said we’d go to the moon and seven years later we did that, seven years from now we have a World Cup and we will be in a quarter-final.

“That’s our moon shot, that’s what we’re going to do.”

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J
Jon 3 hours ago
How Maro Itoje terrorised the All Blacks lineout

Yeah England were much smarter, they put their much vaster experience to use in both the scrum (bending/not taking hit) and lineout (Itoje early sacks) law vagaries. Really though, I know what is there, I’m more worried about Englands locks. We only got to see Itoje and Martin, right? Depth allround in the England camp was probably the difference in the series and the drop off when Itoje reached his minutes limit for the season (it was like the plug was pulled from the charger) was up there with keeping Sexton on the park in that quarter final. What happened there? You have a lot of watching hours experience with locks come blindsides Nick, especially with a typical Australian player make up, have you see a six the size of Barrett absolutely dominate the position and his opposition? I can easily see Scott, and even Martin for that matter, moving to the blindside and playing like Tadgh Beirne with the amount of top locks we have coming through to partner Patrick. Still with the English mindset, because despite running the best All Black team I’ve seen in a long time close, they do need to find improvement, and although I thought they had a lot of good performances from their 7’s (over the years), I really like the prospect of Cunningham-South in his 8 spot and Earl on the open. Can you see Martin as mobile enough to take over Lawes? I absolutely loved his aggression when Jordie ran upto him to try and grab the ball. That alone is enough reason for me to try him there.

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