LA Giltinis signed Sione Tu’ihalamaka for the 2021 Major League Rugby season. The 29-year-old prop is 6’2″ and 255 lbs. He also has played in the back row.
Sione was part of the San Diego Legion organization from 2018-2020, but in 2020 was a development player, and in 2019 did not play in regular-season matches. He transitioned from back-row to loosehead prop in 2018 playing 65 minutes in 6 matches, carrying twice for 10 meters, and making 11 tackles.
Sione was born in Inglewood, California, which is a 15-minute drive from the Giltinis’ headquarters in Venice Beach. He attended Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, California, and was an outstanding football player who achieved All-Dey-Ray League Lineman of the Year and First Team Defense honors in 2008. He also was selected All-Area by the Daily Breeze in 2007 and in 2008, as well as a Max Preps Division 3 First Team All-State and a Prep Star All-West selection.
Sione went to the University of Arizona from 2009-2013, continuing with football as a defensive end, and majoring in Social Psychology. He played arena football in 2015 with the Portland Thunder and then with the Los Angeles KISS.
In 2016 he played professional rugby with the San Diego Breakers and played that Fall for the USA Selects in the Americas Pacific Challenge. He has played club rugby with Tempe Rugby Club, Belmont Shore, Los Angeles, Ventura County, and San Fernando Valley.
LA Giltinis Comments
Three developmental seasons in the San Diego Legion program have advanced his skills after a career transition from playing defensive lineman in American football at the University of Arizona.
Tuihalamaka knows first hand how eager the LA rugby community is to support a professional team that can make an instant bang in MLR.
“Man, I’ve got 51 first cousins so I know where part of the crowd is coming from,” Tuihalamaka said with a smile.
“I’m super excited for this chance in LA because as soon as I saw an MLR team was starting in my home town I knew I had to jump on.
“I’ve played with the rugby clubs of Belmont Shore, Los Angeles, Ventura County, and San Fernando Valley so I know just how much talent and enthusiasm there is for the game in and around LA.
“To now know that talent is going to be exposed to high-caliber coaching in development programs is a big thing because it’s going to create futures in rugby.”
“For sure, my dad (Kisione) played rugby being born in Tonga and I grew up playing touch rugby through the church,” Tuihalamaka said.
“Dad keeps asking when the rugby is starting back up…I keep saying March and it’s going to be good.
“It wasn’t until I was 22 that I correctly played rugby and I just enjoy the game, the brotherhood, and camaraderie.
“Plus, you get to hit people and that’s kind of therapeutic. Going from being a defensive lineman to prop fits because it’s basically big man on big man at scrum-time.”
Tuihalamaka is entering only his fourth year as a loosehead prop so the tutelage of Giltinis scrum coach Alex Corbisiero, the former British and Irish Lions prop, will fast track his progress.
Precise technical knowledge is just what Tuihalamaka needs to turn his one-year deal into something more.
“Sione is an ex-football player so he tackles hard and he carries the ball strongly,” Giltinis skills coach Orene Ai’i said.
“He’s still a little raw after playing prop for just three or four years but his willingness to learn is strong and we know he’s a really good team man who will add his knowledge of the LA rugby scene.”
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