MLR Off-Season Update – Utah Warriors

MLR Off-Season Update – Utah Warriors

The Utah Warriors are the first team to unveil their squad in its entirety for the upcoming season. For the most part the off-season has been one of refining, rather than rebuilding, with a strong core of returning players that account for almost 70% of the squad.

Clearly the most significant change is the hiring of Greg Cooper as Head Coach, a permanent replacement for Shawn Pittman. Shaun Davies and Robbie Abel return as assistant coaches. Cooper is the most accomplished coach in the club’s history and leads a squad with impressive depth. He appeared with GM Brandon Sparks on Warrior Nation to discuss the squad for the upcoming season.

There are seven new signings this season, though two of them are names familiar to Utah fans. Henry Bell is a highly-rated hooker out of New Zealand, while former England age-grade international Joel Hodgson has been recruited to play flyhalf. Tongan international Onehunga Havili is likely to start at lock but is also an experienced loose forward. Danny Giannascoli and Logan Tago are back in the picture, with the former a domestic understudy for Hodgson and the latter set to prowl on the wing after spending the past season with the USA Sevens side.

Five Collegiate Draft picks also bolster the side, among them powerhouse Tennessee second row Greg Janowick. Former Northampton Saints academy prop Sam Buckley arrives as something of a project player, with both he and outside back Connor Burns just a year away from becoming US-qualified. Dynamic winger Joe Mano will be classed as a domestic player in 2023, using the Union Transfer Regulation to switch his allegiance from American Samoa to the Eagles.

Notably the club have not yet signed any of its Dispersal Draft selections, second rows Sam Peri and Khalid Cannon, and scrumhalf Pele Cowley. There are already four scrumhalves on tap for next season, including the return of Niall Saunders who has most recently been playing for the Tel Aviv Heat in the Rugby Europe Super Cup.

Conspicuously absent from the roster at the moment is versatile center Calvin Whiting. Paul Lasike, Tomasi Tonga, and Tyler Fisher are all returning while Cooper says Mika Kruse will get another look in the midfield this season. Whiting though might yet return with Sparks hinting that negotiations are ongoing with the USA international.


Re-signed: Olive Kilifi (LH), Emerson Prior (LH), Franco van den Berg (LH), Joey Backe (HO), Tuvere Vugakoto (HO), Elijah Hayes (TH), Angus MacLellan (TH), Paul Mullen (TH), Jamie Lane (LO), Saia Uhila (LO), Thomas Tu’avao (FL), Lance Williams (FL), Bailey Wilson (FL), Jurie van Vuuren (N8), Zion Going (SH), Niall Saunders (SH), Coleson Warner (FH), Cliven Loubser (FH/FB), Caleb Makene (FH/FB), Tyler Fisher (CE), Paul Lasike (CE), Tomasi Tonga (CE), Siaosi Nauer (CE/WI), Mika Kruse (WI), Joe Mano (WI), Connor Burns (WI/FB)

Collegiate Draft: Gabe Kettering (LH, Lindenwood), Sam Buckley (TH, Lindenwood), Greg Janowick (LO, Tennessee), John DuPree (FL, Central Washington), Tai Kauwe (SH, Kutztown)

In: Henry Bell (HO, Otago, NZ), Jonah Dietenberger (LO, San Diego Legion), Onehunga Havili (LO/N8, Aurillac, FR), Connor McLeod (SH, Hawke’s Bay, NZ), Danny Giannascoli (FH, Schuylkill River), Joel Hodgson (FH, Glasgow Warriors, UK), Logan Tago (CE/WI, USA Sevens)

Out: Chad Gough (HO, retired), James Mocke (LO), Puna Vuli (LO, Honda Heat, JP), Mike Gieselman (FL, Seattle Seawolves), Taris Schramm (FL), Carson Shoemaker (N8), Danny Christensen (SH), James Vaifale (WI, NOLA Gold), Mikey Te’o (WI/FB, San Diego Legion)

Full update via americasrugbynews

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