The LA Giltinis have signed Canadian international Ben LeSage through the 2023 Major League Rugby season. The 26-year-old center is 6’0″ and 215 lbs.
Ben was obtained from Toronto in a trade for flanker James O’Neill, a third-round selection in the 2022 MLR Collegiate Draft, and salary cap considerations with Ben signing a two-year contract.
Ben played 926 minutes in 13 starts and scored 5 tries with the Arrows in 2021. He represented Canada in 2021 playing against Wales, England, the United States, and Chile twice in the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers, before ending with Portugal.
Ben started all five matches, playing 360 minutes in his debut season with the club, carrying 19 times for 162 carry meters, making 37 tackles (84.1% completion), and adding three offloads, two linebreaks, and a tackle break throughout the truncated 2020 season.
Ben was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and went to Dr. E.P. Scarlett High where he played football and was a member of the swim team. In his senior year, the football team won the Division 3 football championship. Since his high school did not have rugby, he played at Henry Wise Wood High School and helped the team win three rugby city championships. He also played youth rugby for the Calgary Canucks.
After high school, Ben attended the University of British Columbia from 2013-2019 where he earned a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering. He was on the Academic All-Canadian & Dean’s Honour List for his final two years at the university.
Ben also played rugby for the UBC Thunderbirds with the team winning three Rounsfell Cups and in 2019 was nominated for the most outstanding graduating male athlete. He also spent time playing rugby in New Zealand after his first year at UBC.
Ben also played age-grade rugby for Canada. He toured with the U18s in 2013 and played for the U20s at the Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong in 2014.
He made his debut for the Canada Senior Men’s National Team on November 19, 2016, against Romania in Bucharest, played in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and the last of his 23 tests (22 starts) was against Portugal at Lisbon, Nov 6, 2021. He also has scored one try in his tests.
Ben also played club rugby for the Calgary Canucks and provincial rugby for the Prairie Wolf Pack since 2017.
When not playing rugby, Ben may be seen cycling.
LA Giltinis Comments
LeSage says he is eager to take his game to the next level as a professional player and feels the Giltinis’ set-up can help him do that.
“I’m definitely appreciative of Toronto and the Arrows giving me my first professional contract. Now, I’m up for a new adventure and learning from some of the best who’s ever played the game,” LeSage said.
“Playing against the Giltinis last season, you pretty quickly realised they were the real deal. Joining MLR’s defending champions is a great opportunity to improve as a rugby player in a really good team environment that gained the respect of the league in year one.”
LeSage says a big attraction is the chance to work with Wallabies great Adam Ashley-Cooper, the decorated outside centre who has switched to assistant coach since retiring after his prominent role in the Championship victory.
“It was cool to play against Adam but I’m now really looking forward to a big brain dump in terms of learning all I can from him as a coach,” LeSage said.
“DTH (van der Merwe) is someone I tried to learn from during our time together with Canada. This year, I got to play at international level with (forward) Corey Thomas so they are both familiar faces in the Giltinis team.”
Giltinis head coach Stephen Hoiles is looking forward to LeSage joining training for the February 5 season-opener against the Houston SaberCats in Houston.
“With the departure of Adam and Glenn Bryce, it was really important to fill our backline vacancies with mature, level-headed players who have an edge,” Hoiles said.
“We are delighted to have signed Ben. He has a massive engine in terms of work rate in games, he’s a leader in defence and he has speed and swerves as an attacker.
“He’s a real team-first character and I like that.”