A group of former All Blacks, including two-time World Cup winner Jerome Kaino, said they are behind a bid to establish the first professional rugby union team in Hawaii, a move they called a boost for Pacific Islanders.
Kanaloa Hawaii had their bid to join Major League Rugby (MLR) from next year confirmed on Friday, pending final approval.
If terms such as an expansion fee are met, “the team would be formalized and ratified by a board vote, and Kanaloa Hawaii would become the 14th member for the 2021 MLR season,” the MLR said in a statement.
Joining Kaino, who plays for French club Toulouse, in the ownership group are former All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, John Afoa, Benson Stanley, Anthony Tuitavake and Ben Atiga.
“Creating an even playing field for Polynesians and Maori to get on the world stage, and the impact you have on the people back home is enormous,” Kaino told the MLR Rant podcast.
“You end up finding out that rugby is more than a game,” he said.
“That’s what it means to us. To be able to create a legacy and create something special to pass on to the next generation ... and show what our little nations can do on the world stage,” he said.
MLR canceled much of its season this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the team in Colorado disbanded, allowing the league to seek further expansion from next season.
“We are going to be the first professional Pacific islands rugby team in the world,” the budding Hawaii team’s rugby manager, Cam Kilgour, told the podcast. “We really want to develop professional rugby players from Hawaii and give them the opportunity.”
Former All Blacks and Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne would lead the side, with former All Blacks center Tamati Ellison his assistant.
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