How Paul Lasike’s experience in England can bolster the Utah Warriors and Major League Rugby
A lot has changed since Paul Lasike first suited up for the Utah Warriors, both within the team he’s set to join and with himself.
Lasike was announced as the Warriors’ most recent addition earlier this week, rejoining the team he began his professional rugby career with back in 2018. It was the year that marked the inaugural season for Major League Rugby, which Lasike remembers well.
“It was a growth phase,” Lasike recalled. “The first year there were only seven teams and it was still a little bit disorganized because that’s how it usually is in the first year with anything.”
Everything from the training facilities to how much time players and coaches could actually dedicate to the team were very much inconsistent.
“We had a stadium to play in, but our training was in random places,” Lasike said. “We’d train in Lehi, and then some up in Salt Lake (City.) And then we’d do weights at like ridiculous times to sort of work around everyone’s schedule. It was semi-professional back then, so everyone had jobs on the side.”
The MLR has expanded to 13 teams since 2018 and has made many other sides, all of which were well-noted by Lasike.
“It’s just night and day now,” Lasike said in comparing what he sees now compared to back in 2018. “It’s been awesome to watch from afar what’s progressing, and I’ve progressed as well. So hopefully I can take what I’ve learned over here and apply it there.”
𝐆𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐖𝐡𝐨'𝐬 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐤
Welcome back to Utah, Paul Lasike.#ForTheNation
— Utah Warriors Rugby (@utwarriorsrugby) February 22, 2022
Lasike refers to ‘here’ as England, where he’s made his home for the past four years after being signed by the Harlequins Rugby club in the English Premiership. The New Zealand native made 29 appearances with the Harlequins over his four seasons and scored five tries.
Prior to his professional rugby career was two seasons playing in the NFL for the Chicago Bears, which was preceded by three years playing for the BYU football team in which rugby was put aside temporarily in order to pursue the most popular sport in the United States.
Lasike started off his time at BYU playing for its rugby team before transitioning to football where he was the teammate of Warriors assistant coach Shaun Davies. The two of them contributed to the Cougars taking a national championship in 2009 and became close friends with a lot of mutual respect between them.
“He’s just a freak and he was destined to become a professional athlete since he came out of the womb,” Davies said of Lasike, who was very much regarded as the star of BYU’s 2009 national champion team. “Not only is he a freak athletically, he’s also a very good culture guy.”
"I've always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to finish up here."
— Utah Warriors Rugby (@utwarriorsrugby) February 22, 2022
What Lasike brings athletically is a 5-foot-11, 250 pound frame that can prove necessarily versatile on the rugby pitch while proving remarkably fast and agile. It’s a prospect Warriors coaches are excited to add to an already impressive roster in hopes of turning around what has become a rough 0-3 start to the 2022 season. Lasike plans to join the Warriors in late March, following the completion of the Six Nations Tournament.
“He’ll help us both on and off the field,” Davies said. “He brings so much to the table on the field that he’ll bring a lot of confidence to those around him, and right now we need a guy in the middle of the field to organize and to take the bull by the horns, and I think Paul is that guy.”
As mentioned, Lasike has developed his own game considerably since playing in the English Premiership and feels he can bring an even better presence to the Warriors than he did back in 2018.
“My speed in the game and sort of reading the game has improved quite a bit,” Lasike said. “The league I play in is one of the fastest leagues in the world, so just naturally being in that environment has helped develop my game, and I’ve tried hard to work on things that haven’t been my strengths.”
Lasike regards himself as a straight-ahead power player, but has worked hard to develop his overall agility along with his passing and kicking. He also feels just now fully recovered from tearing his achilles, which put him on the shelf for nine months.
Along with his rugby developments has come progress in his immediate family, where he and his wife are expecting twins to be born soon after he arrives in Utah, which was the big reason behind his decision to join back up with the Warriors sooner rather than later.
“It’s been a roller coaster journey to say the least,” Lasike said. “I’m coming back full circle to finish up in Utah…and my wife about to have twins sort of hurried up that process…I’m very excited to come back to sort of what we call home now and play for the Utah Warriors again.”
Brandon Gurney is the Utah Warriors Team Reporter. With nearly two decades of experience covering BYU Football in print and on radio, Gurney brings a wealth of experience to the Utah Warriors beat. You can read all of Gurney’s stories on the Utah Warriors throughout the 2022 Season at WarriorsRugby.com
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