It’s time for Glasgow Warriors’ fans to pick their new second favourite team. The 2021 Major League Rugby season gets underway this Saturday and there are a lot of Glasgow (and other Scottish rugby) connections across the competing sides. Two teams stand out though, representing the historic rivalry between the USA’s east and west coasts. Step forward Old Glory DC and LA Giltinis.
Representing Washington, Old Glory DC are the MLR side that the Scottish Rugby Union have invested in, taking a 28.4% stake. More importantly for Glasgow fans the OGs are home to a couple of Warriors’ legends.
John Manson, better known as Pump, made his Glasgow debut as a player back in 1999. He returned to the club as Operations Manager in 2015, just in time to inspire the team to success in the PRO12 Grand Final. After more than four years spent wrangling the Warriors’ squad to be in the right place at the right time, he headed over to Washington in late 2019 to join the brand new Old Glory DC franchise ahead of their first season in the MLR.
Glasgow’s former club captain, Callum Gibbins, will combine playing duties with being an assistant coach for the OGs as he tackles his first MLR campaign having left the Warriors at the end of the 2019/20 season. Cully was an inspirational leader throughout his three years with the club and guide them to the PRO14 final in 2018/19. He left with an impressive 64% win ratio as skipper. Given the strong links between Old Glory and Scottish rugby and the high regard Cully is held in at Scotstoun it will be interesting to see if this move provides a pathway to a return to Glasgow some day in a coaching role.
Also representing the OGs this year are a couple of players who trained with the Warriors in 2019. Prop Steven Longwell is a trophy-winning Ayr legend who was capped by the Scotland Club XV. Jack Iscaro is another prop who spent time in Glasgow (although at that point he was playing hooker). Jack also earns extra Scottish rugby credit by being proper ginger.
Aberdonian Matthew Gordon played for the Glasgow & the West Academy age grade sides before attending college in the States prior to being drafted by Old Glory.
Away from the Warriors, there are further Scottish rugby connections in the shape of Scotland 7s and Edinburgh player, Mungo Mason as well as Stan South who played one game at lock for Edinburgh while on loan during the 2019/20 season.
Old Glory can also boast a smattering of USA Eagles and Canada internationals (including Thretton Palamo and Ciaran Hearn) as well as Fijian second row Apisai Naikatini.
New boys LA Giltinis are in their first season as an expansion franchise for 2021. Starting from scratch hasn’t prevented them from building a pretty remarkable squad though, including a quartet of former Warriors.
DTH van der Merwe needs little introduction to Glasgow fans but it’s always nice to have a reminder of the highlights! A Warrior Centurion with 123 appearances across two spells. The club’s record try scorer with 54. Closed out his first period with Glasgow by returning from injury to score a crucial try v Ulster in the PRO12 semi-final before adding another in the final then in his next game, nearly three years later, bagging a double on his re-debut. In addition he basically built Ryan Wilson’s house for him.
Also in LA are a couple of neebs whose previous experience of playing for Stirling County at Bridgehaugh should surely stand them in good stead for the conditions they are likely to find in LA…Adam Ashe is a Scotland cap and veteran of more than 70 games for Glasgow over eight years at Scotstoun. With a cracking try-scoring ratio for a forward and an enormous workrate on both sides of the ball, Adam should be a fan favourite at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Joining Adam in the City of Angels is fellow County graduate Glenn Bryce who played 34 times for the Warriors across two spells. Glenn is also a 7s regular who played in both of Scotland’s wins on the London leg of the World Series in 2016 and 2017. It’s a little over a year ago that Glenn outplayed Stuart Hogg when Glasgow took on Exeter in the Champions Cup. His dancing feet should go well during a west coast summer in the USA.
The final member of the Once A Warrior gang is Langlangi Haupeakui who had a short spell at Glasgow in 2016. The big number 8 had the misfortune to be sent off on his Warriors’ debut (subsequently rescinded and confirmed as a refereeing error). He’ll certainly provide a powerful ball-carrying option for the Giltinis.
The LA franchise have no less than three former Wallabies among their ranks in the shape of Adam Ashley-Cooper (121 caps), Matt Giteau (103 caps) and Dave Dennis (18 caps).
The Glasgow connections don’t stop at two teams in the MLR:
- NOLA Gold’s Pat O’Toole had a spell with Glasgow during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
- Ex-Warriors’ number 8, Tevita Tameilau, will turn out for the San Diego Legion.
- Another former Glasgow player – Djustice Sears-Duru – is with the Seattle Seawolves.
- Gaston Cortes had a loan spell with the Warriors in 2020. He’s now part of the Toronto Arrows’ squad.
- Sean Yacoubian played for Glasgow Warriors in the Gala 7s in 2016. The scrum half will turn out for New England Free Jacks this year after being with the Colorado Raptors for the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign.
- German international, Hagen Schulte, made an appearance for Glasgow against the Scarlets in February 2017 and is now with another set of Warriors – this time in Utah.
- Former Glasgow hooker, James Malcolm, was due to play for Dallas Jackals this season but they have had to delay their entry to the MLR until the 2022 campaign. James would have been joined in the Dallas squad by Peni Tagive – older brother of current Warrior, Ratu Tagive.