All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu’s blunt assessment of the MLR and suggests the USA Eagles follow Los Pumas’ lead

Jared Wright
Ma'a Nonu and the MLR logo.

Ma'a Nonu and the MLR logo.

Former All Blacks centre and double Rugby World Cup winner Ma’a Nonu has shared his opinion on the quality of the USA’s Major Rugby League.

The 41-year-old midfielder is still plying his trade in the States with the San Diego Legion, who he joined from Toulon in 2020.

Having experienced professional rugby across the globe featuring in Super Rugby, the Top 14, Champions Cup and the Top League – now the Japan Rugby League One – Nonu provides a well-informed opinion of the quality of rugby in the US.

How the MLR compares

However, he did not hold back in his assessment of the quality of the MLR compared to the other professional competitions.

“In a nice way, the MLR is probably at the bottom. If I would rate the competitions around the world right now, I think the Top 14’s probably the toughest competition,” Nonu said on the Kick-Offs and Kick-Ons podcast

However, the All Blacks legend was sympathetic to the reasoning behind the quality of the game in the US, with the competition still relatively new while also serving the USA Eagles’ needs.

“The MLR’s just starting out, it’s been going for seven years,” he added.

“You’ve got a lot of players who can’t play Super Rugby or the Premiership or in France, so they come to the States.

“It’s purely a competition to try and make the American players better, so hopefully they’re doing [that]. There are a lot of foreigners coming over but the States have struggled over the last couple of years, failing to make the World Cup.”

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How to improve the USA Eagles

Nonu believes that it could be beneficial for USA Rugby if the national team was added to the MLR going forward.

This would allow the players to combine regularly instead of drawing talents from multiple teams across the country.

“My personal opinion is that they should probably change the rules, maybe put the Eagles into the MLR next year so they can combine and play together for a good while, and then go into the international games,” he concluded.

Nonu’s suggestion is similar to that of the Jaguares, with Los Pumas coaches prioritising the selection of players from the Super Rugby squad while still calling up a handful of overseas-based players.

Now playing into his forties, Nonu has featured in six of the Legion’s nine matches this season, winning four of those games.

Their results have see them ranked third overall in the MLR Western Conference with seven regular season matches left to play.

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