Star Hawke’s Bay rugby player Lincoln McClutchie has signed with American Major League Rugby club San Diego Legion for its 2024 season.
The signing of the top points scorer in the New Zealand National Provincial Championship, who was a mysterious omission from teams announced last month for Super Rugby Pacific starting in February, was announced by the club on social media on Saturday morning New Zealand time.
It was followed soon afterwards by a video message from the 24-year-old first five-eighths, in which he said: “I’m really looking forward to coming over and meeting all you guys and your awesome fans.”
“I’m really stoked to be a part of your guys’ 2024 campaign and I can’t wait to get over there and getting stuck into it with you guys,” he said.
Like other Magpies playing in the American competition, he is likely to be available again for Ranfurly Shield holder Hawke’s Bay in 2024 as it tries to win the NPC first division for the first time, after reaching the final for the first time this year.
He was the only Magpies player to play in all 13 games – the 10 in the regular season and the quarter-final, semifinal and the final – and finished the season with 125 points.
He’s played 64 games for Hawke’s Bay since 2018, his 454 points being fourth only on the all-time list of top scorers, behind Jarrod Cunningham (1007) and Ihaia West (631).
In 2020 he played in four matches for Japanese club Red Hurricanes Osaka and in 2022-2023 he played in 20 games for new Super Rugby franchise Moana Pasifika.
The Legion are coached by former Hawke’s Bay assistant coach, Magpies halfback and All Black Danny Lee, and the playing roster also includes another Hawke’s Bay player in loose forward Tupou Aufugia.
At least five other Hawke’s Bay players are also signed for teams in MLR, which was first played in 2018 but is under a cloud after the late withdrawal of two teams in what was to have been an expansion year.
No draw has been announced but it’s expected to start in February.
Doug Laing is a senior reporter based in Napier with Hawke’s Bay Today, and has 50 years of journalism experience in news gathering, including breaking news, sports, local events, issues, and personalities.