By Ali Stokes
Harlequins have confirmed the signing of USA international centre and former NFL player Paul Lasike from Major League Rugby side Utah Warriors.
After impressing with a powerful display against Scotland over the summer, the robust midfielder previously spent time with NFL sides the Cardinals and Chicago Bears after making his switch back to Union, having arrived in America from New Zealand.
Lasike, 28, will look to compete for a midfield slot in a well stocked position for Harlequins, boasting the likes of All Black Francis Saili, Wallaby Ben Tapuai, Scotland's James Lang and England squad member Joe Marchant.
“Playing rugby in the US and representing them at international level has been an awesome experience.” Lasike said. “But it was an honour to be asked to join such a prestigious club as Harlequins and I am delighted to be joining the Club.
“I did my own research about the Club and I asked a couple of my friends on the US team about the Harlequins and they said, ‘Grab the bull by both horns and take it!’ So I did. It is an exciting, awesome opportunity and now we have the next month to get prepared for the start of the season. I can’t wait.”
Harlequins Head of Rugby Paul Gustard said: “I am delighted Paul is joining us for the start of a new era at Harlequins. He is a player who has enormous game-changing potential and I am very excited and pleased that Paul and his young family have made the decision to come to be part of our journey.
“He adds something different to a talented group of centres that we have at the club. I am sure the fans will enjoy his approach to the game and give him and his family the warm welcome that they are famous for.
“I am thankful for the cooperation of the MLR and Utah Warriors for allowing Paul the opportunity to develop his game, challenge himself and give Paul and his family new experiences to enjoy.”
Commenting on Lasike’s new deal, Utah Warriors Head Coach Alf Daniels commented on the strength of MLR: “Paul signing with the Quins just shows that the MLR has talent,” he said. “There is talent in America and the MLR is the best path forward to develop that talent. We’re excited for Paul, but look forward to the next man up to step into his shoes for the Warriors.”
Utah Warriors General Manager Kimball Kjar added: “A year ago people wouldn’t have thought professional rugby in America was feasible. Now, with players like Paul and others leading the way, we can see that not only is the MLR viable and real, but 10 or 15 years from now, we believe the MLR can become one of the world’s top professional rugby competitions.”
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