22 Apr 2016

Sport: Tonga's Kurt Morath to make US pro debut

11:38 am on 22 April 2016

'Ikale Tahi first five Kurt Morath is looking forward to a new challenge ahead of his debut in the new Pro Rugby competition in the United States.

The 31-year-old Morath has played 30 times for Tonga, including at the past two Rugby World Cups.

'Ikale Tahi first five Kurt Morath.

Kurth Morath in training with Tonga at last year's World Cup. Photo: AFP

After stints playing professionally in New Zealand, Japan and France, he said the chance to experience something completely different was too good to turn down.

"Before the World Cup I was actually in Biarritz in France and then Taku Ngwenya, the American winger, he was playing there as well - he started talking to me about it a little bit, he'd been hearing a few whispers. Later on in the piece my agent came to me about it and then it sort of just progressed from there really and then here we are going to San Diego, he said".

"And obviously the way things are progressing in America with the rugby - you can see with the results and stuff that they've had - and their sevens especially, rugby's starting to get quite a good profile over there and the way they do their sports everything is usually pretty big so I guess it's just a matter of time before it becomes hopefully a major sport over there."

There are five franchises in the inaugural Pro Rugby competition: San Francisco; Sacramento; Denver; Ohio and Morath's team, San Diego, with plans to expand within America and to Canada next season.

Kurt Morath is one of the competition's marquee international signings, alongside the likes of former All Black fullback Mils Muliaina, former New Zealand and Samoa sevens international Orene Ai'i and Australian dual international Timana Tahu.

The season kicked off last weekend with Sacramento beating San Francisco 37-25 and Denver winning 16-13 in Ohio.

Morath and his San Diego team make their belated debut on Saturday local time away to Sacramento.

"I guess you go there and you're sort of just wanting to lead by example and obviously play well, first and foremost. It was sort of a similar situation in Japan, where they sort of expect you to go over there and sort of maybe help some of the younger guys out - try and show them the way a little bit - but just looking to get over there and play well and just take it from there really."

The San Diego team pose for the camera ahead of their PRO Rugby debut.

The San Diego team pose for the camera ahead of their PRO Rugby debut. Photo: PRO Rugby