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Ex-All Blacks comprise ownership group of USA's latest Major League Rugby franchise

A group of former All Blacks are behind a venture to bring rugby to Hawaii as part of USA's latest expansion of Major League Rugby.

Kanaloa Hawaii were this week accepted into America's Major League Rugby, their ownership group consisting of Jerome Kaino, Joe Rokocoko, Anthony Tuitavake, John Afoa, Benson Stanley and Ben Atiga.

All are high profile players of Pacific origin, hoping to give back to the region that's for so long been ignored by the game. 

Ex-All Blacks skills coach Mick Byrne will coach the side, while former All Black Tamati Ellison will be his assistant.

The idea of a Pasifika team in Super Rugby has been ignored by the Southern Hemisphere's powerbrokers. Kanaloa Hawaii is taking matters into their own hands.

"Everybody's been waiting for New Zealand Rugby and Australia Rugby and the Pacific Islands to each do their thing," says Kanaloa Hawaii chief executive Tracy Atiga.

"But actually what it's taken is community to say stop asking everybody do something, take charge do it yourself and then everyone can actually support us.

"As a group we're really passionate about making sure that our Pasifika, Māori community understand that those leadership positions are ours as well."

Kiwi Cam Kilgour is the team's general manager. He helped set up Major League Rugby sides in Los Angeles and Texas, and is now in charge of recruiting players from both Hawaii and the Pacific.

“Mitre 10 Cup players or Super Rugby players that may not crack on to the All Blacks - we want to give them an opportunity,” Kilgour said.

“But we’re not taking away that opportunity to play international rugby. We want to make sure that the Tongans play for Tonga, the Fijians play for Fiji and the Samoans play for Samoa.”

The team will aim to have a high performance base in Auckland, while it will play home games at a temporary venue in Hawaii while there is a three-year plan to move into the famous Aloha Stadium, which is committed to hosting rugby on a long-term basis.

"That's also beneficial to All Blacks Test matches, Japanese Test matches, USA Test matches, and maybe women's sevens tournaments," Kilgour said.

What's more, with talk of the next Super Rugby restructure seeing a mooted Pacific team, Kanaloa Hawaii could find themselves as front-runners to lead that charge.

"For us another team, basically all it means is going out there, working hard and finding some more investors who are keen to support our kaupapa,” said Atiga.