WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former All Blacks center Ma’a Nonu has become the highest-profile player to commit to a Major League Rugby franchise, signing with the San Diego Legion for the 2020 season.
The 37-year-old two-time World Cup winner made a surprise announcement Thursday that he is quitting the Auckland-based Blues Super Rugby team to play in the fast-growing North American league.
“I’m really grateful to be joining the San Diego Legion and to play in the MLR for the 2020 season,” Nonu said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of the new season ahead with the team. My family and I are excited about the move to San Diego.”
Nonu is a veteran of 103 tests and more than 300 professional games, winning World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015 and playing in All Blacks teams which won five Tri-Nations or Rugby Championship titles and eight Bledisloe Cup series.
He played Super Rugby for the Hurricanes and Highlanders and spent three seasons with French club Toulon before joining the Blues last year. But he failed to win selection in New Zealand’s squad for the current World Cup in Japan, making a comeback to international rugby unlikely.
His signing with San Diego is a major coup for the MLR.
“Ma’a is a huge addition for us,” Legion head coach Rob Hoadley said. “It is undeniable that he will have a major impact on the MLR this season.
“He is a world-class player who has proven himself to be one of the greats of the game. His talent and leadership will be a perfect addition to the San Diego Legion organization.”
Major League Rugby was founded in 2017 with its inaugural season being played in 2018. The competition now features 12 teams, with 11 from the U.S. and one from Canada. The Seattle Seawolves have claimed the title the first two seasons.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports