Utah Warriors Release
The Utah Warriors have signed five players ahead of the 2022 season, the team announced Friday.
Joining the Utah Warriors roster is Puna Vili, Carson Shoemaker, Opeti Iongi, Tomasi Tonga and Taris Schramm. Tonga, Iongi and Schramm join the Warriors after playing for the Utah Selects – the Warriors development squad – this past Fall.
Vili, a 6’7” 270 lb lock and native of Fiji, joins the Warriors for a second stint in Utah, having played for the team in 2019 and 2020. Vili previously played in Fiji for QVSOB Rugby Club from 2014-2015 and SGSOB Rugby Club in 2015 before moving to the United States to attend Santa Rosa Junior College, where he also played rugby. In addition to his rugby union experience, Vili has played for Lomaiviti Barbarians in the 2018 and 2019 Rugbytown 7s.
“Puna is a talented player that spent the year away from us working on himself,” said Warriors’ General Manager Brandon Sparks. “That commitment to self improvement has him returning to us a much improved person and player. We are very excited to see what he can do in 2022”
A native of Peoria, Arizona, Shoemaker joins the Warriors as a 6’3” 230 lb flanker. Shoemaker attended Arizona State University where he was a member of the rugby team. He joins the Utah Warriors as a former High School All-American and 2020 USA U20’s rugby player.
“Carson was ID’d by an alumni of ours,” said Sparks. “The feedback was he worked hard, thrived in contact, and was young. Once we found out he was coached by Salty Thompson it became a no brainer we should sign him. Through preseason, Carson has lived up to the hype and possesses the grit needed to be a successful player.”
Tonga, a local product from Herriman, Utah, comes to the Warriors as a former U17 and U18 All-American for Herriman High School, just six miles from the Utah Warriors’ home stadium. A 6’0” 229 lb center, Tonga was a standout for the Utah Selects, a team designed to develop players into future Major League Rugby starters, this past Fall. He also has played locally for the Utah Saints, a Men’s Club Rugby team.
“Tomasi is a guy that I know the coaches have had their eye on for a while,” said Warriors’ prop ‘Olive Kilifi, Tonga’s former coach with the Utah Selects. “So for him to come in and do what he did as a member of the Selects went a long way to helping him earn a spot on the MLR Roster. He obviously has a lot of talent and I’m confident he can be one of those guys that makes a jump from the Selects to the Pros like we saw last year with guys like Joe Mano and James [Vaifale].”
Iongi is another former member of the Utah Selects, where he shined in November of 2021. He joins the Utah Warriors with extensive experience at the Utah Men’s Club Rugby level, having previously played for the West Valley Guerillas before joining the Warriors. The West Valley, Utah product comes to the Utah Warriors as a 5’11”, 180 lb fullback with an explosive first step.
“I think a lot of fans got to see what Opeti can bring to a rugby field when he was with the Selects this past Fall,” said Kilifi. “He’s an explosive athlete and if he continues to work on his craft he can be a very good rugby player. I’m really excited to see what Opeti can do here at this level.”
Schramm, who along with Tonga and Inogi, impressed coaches during his time with the Utah Selects, joins Utah as a 6’0” 228 lb, flanker. Schramm is another local rugby product, growing up in Payson, Utah before attending Dixie State University where he graduated with a degree in Applied Communications. Schramm comes to the Warriors after helping to lead Dixie State to a Rocky Mountain Championship over Utah Valley University.
“Taris was a great player for us when he was with the Selects,” remarked Kilifi. “I think he really impressed the coaches with his toughness and skills in those few matches last fall. He’s a guy that will do whatever is asked of him and is dedicated to being a good rugby player.”
The five Utah Warriors signings will join the team for the 2022 Season as the franchise celebrates its Five Year Anniversary as one of the founding members of Major League Rugby. The Warriors will kick off the 2022 campaign when they travel to San Diego to take on the San Diego Legion on February 6, 2022.