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WATCH: 42 year old coach makes playing return to make history in MLR

BY Sean Lenehan  ·  Wednesday Mar 9, 2022

Orene Ai’i became the oldest player in MLR history last weekend.

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Skills coach for the LA Giltinis, Orene Ai’i was forced to come out of retirement to start at outhalf for the Giltinis last Saturday. In round 6 of the 2022 season the Giltinis were heading down to Texas to face the Austin Gilgronis and during the warmup they found themselves without a number 10.

Starting fly half Luke Burton sustained an injury during the warm up and the Giltinis called upon assistant backs coach and skills coach Orene Ai’i to take the reigns. The Giltinis were also without the services of Matt Giteau for this clash.

Ai’i represented New Zealand at school level and u19 age grade. At age 19 he signed with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby and then later went on to have success with the Auckland Blues. Ai’i played 31 times for the Blues from 2000 till 2004 winning the title in 2003.

Orene Ai’i represented New Zealand 7s and was named World 7s player of the year in 2005. Ai’i had stints in Japan with the Toyota Verblitz in 2005-07 and played for Toulon 41 times from 2008/09.

Ai’i moved to the US in 2015 and played with clubs such as Life West, San Francisco Rush and Fresno RFC. 2015 would have been his last playing season since moving onto coaching.

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Ai’i was added as a skills coach by the Giltinis for their inaugural season in the league in 2021. The Giltinis went onto dominate the league, losing only 4 times and winning the championship. LA boosted big names such as Matt Giteau, DTH van der Merwe and Adam Ashley Cooper in their squad.

Ai’i played 65 minutes in the Giltinis 22-9 loss away to the Gilgronis. However, the 42 year old kicked 3 penalties in the game, coming away with 9 points.

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