In the build-up to the 2020 MLR season many big names were signed to league. The group of 2020 signings were highlighted by 2019 Rugby World Cup Champion Springbok Tendai Mtawarira, French centre Mathieu Bastareaud, and a pair of All Blacks centres in Ma’a Nonu and Rene Ranger. A handful of other big-name players, such as Wallabies Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane, never even got the chance to suit up for their MLR clubs as visa issues went unresolved when the season was cancelled.
The 2020 MLR season was poised to be the biggest and best one in the league’s young history. A large part of that was the impact that these big-name stars would bring to the table.
How many of these stars return for 2021 is an unknown. Bastareaud was on a one-year deal with Rugby United New York and will be plying his trade with Lyon in the Top 14 next season. Will the rest be back? It’s unknown at this point. It would be incredibly unfortunate to see all of these elite and legendary players have their time in MLR cut short. However, it appears that more stars could be poised to join MLR in 2021.
RUNY seems to be at the centre of it all. RUNY has already made a few big splashes. Their squad for their inaugural MLR campaign featured Northampton Saints and English international fullback Ben Foden. Foden returned for 2020 and was joined by Bastareaud as the star power in RUNY grew. Owner James Kennedy has already locked up Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell.
The 36-year old has 71 caps for the Wallabies and his 34 tries have him ranked 5th in Wallaby history. However, Mitchell has not played a game since 2017, leading to some speculation that he may be brought on as a coach. RUNY has also been linked with former England captain and two-time Premiership Player of the Year Chris Robshaw. Robshaw has already made a public appearance at a RUNY event to stir the speculation even further. It would appear that RUNY are not finished yet, as it looks like Kennedy has a much bigger target in mind.
Flyhalf Cathal Marsh is expected to be leaving the squad, which gives RUNY a hole to fill at flyhalf. So why not fill that hole with the G.O.A.T? According to a report from Liam Heagney of RugbyPass, RUNY has reached out to All Blacks legend Dan Carter. The 38-year old Carter recently became a free agent due to his contract with Kobelco Steelers ending at the conclusion/cancellation of the Japan Top League season. Heagney’s article merely states that RUNY reached out to Carter. Obviously, that does not mean he will be signing there. However, many MLR fans are salivating at the mere thought of Dan Carter playing in MLR.
Carter has 112 caps for the All Blacks. During those 112 caps, Carter scored 1,598 points, which is the most in World Rugby history. Carter was also a part of the dominate Crusaders side that won 3 Super Rugby Championships in 2005, 2006, and 2008. During his 141 games with the Crusaders, Carter amassed 1,708 points becoming Super Rugby’s all-time leading scorer. Additionally, Carter’s resume includes 3 World Rugby Player of the Year Awards, 2 Rugby World Cups, 2 Top 14 Championships, a Japan Top League Championship, and 9 Rugby Championship titles.
Carter was a key cog in the All Blacks dynasty that began in the latter part of the last decade and only truly ending in 2019. Carter’s prowess in all aspects of the game has led many to declare him the greatest flyhalf to ever play. Carter is a brilliant tactician and has unrivalled skills with ball in hand. Whether he was kicking off a tee, or under pressure from a charging defense, Carter’s boot was pinpoint accurate (and a major contributor to those 1,598 points). If RUNY can land him, having the legendary Dan Carter in MLR would be a massive boost for the league.
In addition to his legendary on-field ability, Carter would bring plenty of eyeballs to MLR. Carter boasts a massive social media following (637k on Twitter, 985k on Instagram) and has a huge endorsement deal with Adidas. Tag Heuer and Land Rover also count themselves among companies that have had partnerships with Carter. Obviously, every New Zealand based company want him endorsing their brand. Carter would be able to bring an unprecedented number of eyeballs to MLR.
Of course, that brings its own challenges. His contract with Kobelco Steelers that just ended was worth $1.38 million USD per year. The MLR salary cap is $500,000 with a player max at $45,000. That is one helluva pay cut for Mr. Carter. So how exactly do you get him over here? What else would RUNY or another MLR team have to offer him?
This is a league that now employs Nonu and Mtawarira. RUNY is a team that employs (or has employed) Bastareaud, Mitchell, and Foden. So, I’m not going to say it can’t happen. Anything is possible after all. However, I would love to hear what RUNY’s initial pitch was and any future negotiations. Just to know how Kennedy convinced him to sign if it ends up happening at all.
Ultimately, Dan Carter joining RUNY and Major League Rugby would be a massive boost to rugby in North America. To be able to say the greatest flyhalf of all time is competing in MLR would be tremendous for the league both on and off the pitch. However, at this stage, all RUNY has done is reach out. It would be great if it happens, but that is a big IF.
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