PRO Rugby has been making regular announcements on the additional and new signings, which have included a number of international players. One that really stood out last week was a player with an impressive international résumé and improved an already loaded team of backs for the San Diego side.
That player was Kurt Morath. Kurt has played in two Rugby World Cups (2011 and 2015) with the Tongan National side as their fly half. Kurt has 30 international caps as a part of the Tonga National Team; he also had played with the New Zealand U-20s before moving on to play for Tonga. In addition to being an extremely skills international fly-half with some excellent kicking skills, Morath also comes with professional experience.
We caught up with Kurt through a mutual friend this week to just find out about his “Coming To America”. When we spoke to Kurt he was still in his home back in New Zealand finishing up a few things with his visa and preparing for this move to the USA for this season. Fans will recall that they’ve seen Kurt play on USA soil in the past as part of matches between Tonga and the USA.
Below is our brief interview with Kurt on his coming to the USA and joining PRO Rugby.
The Rugby Republic: Kurt you've most recently played in professionally France. What was it about PRO Rugby/professional rugby in the USA that appealed to you? What's brings you here?
Kurt Morath (KM): The first thing that appealed to me was that it’s a new competition and a new challenge. It’s a pretty exciting time in America the way things are going with rugby. I think it’s a great opportunity to be apart of something new and to hopefully help the game grow in the US.
RR: Without giving any details on salaries, do you think the PRO Rugby is competitive with some of other professional leagues or are there other perks for international players?
KM: I think the salaries are ok but its not the main reason for me personally coming to PRO Rugby. I think it’s a great opportunity to be apart of a new competition and to experience and live in another part of the world. Playing in good conditions and being able to live in San Diego is definitely a perk as well!!!
RR: Are you surprised by the number of international players that PRO Rugby has been able to attract (or even those who will be on your team in San Diego)?
KM: Not really, I think a lot of people are starting to realize how much potential there is in the US. You can see that by a lot of the results, especially in the recent 7’s development of USA Rugby, that the game is progressing really quickly in America. It’s generating plenty of interest amongst the public so I think it’s only a matter of time before rugby becomes a major sport there.
RR: What are you looking forward to most about coming to play in the USA and specifically here in California?
KM: I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing an attractive brand of rugby for the league. I’ve heard the weather is pretty good all year round in California (and especially in San Diego) so it should make for some exciting rugby. Hopefully I can put some good performances together for San Diego.
RR: As a player who has played professionally and internationally how do you think having a professional league in the States will grow the game here?
KM: I definitely think it will. Having a fully professional league is going to create a lot more exposure for rugby which can only be a good thing. Hopefully one day young American kids will want to grow up to be professional rugby players instead of some of the other traditional American sports.
RR: What is the main thing you want to achieve upon joining the team in San Diego? Building bonds, getting runs in, etc?
KM: I know some of the boys have already been together training. For me I just want to contribute as best I can for the team so obviously playing the best rugby I can will go along way to doing that. If I can in some way help some of the younger or less experienced players along the way then that would be a bonus as well.
If all goes well I should be there next weekend in San Diego and try and get some descent time with the rest of the players before the start of the season.
So you may not have seen the most recent San Diego roster you should go look at it. The depth, experience or number of international cap of the Sand Diego side is impressive. That isn’t to say the rest of PRO Rugby clubs don’t also have some outstanding talent.
We think Kurt will become a popular player here in the Golden State in part because of this play, but also because of the Tongan and Polynesian fan base in California. The addition of Kurt Morath to the San Diego side should indeed provide them an opportunity to play some exciting rugby.