A Hawaiian former American footballer is part of Leinster's sub-academy
A FORMER HIGH school American football player from Hawaii has been training with Leinster’s sub-academy since September of last year.
Tighthead prop Roman Salanoa, who has Samoan ancestry, is from the Hawaiian island of Oahu and earned All-State selection as a defensive linesman after helping his school, Kahuku High, to a state championship in 2015.
Salanoa, who turned 20 in October, is now attempting to convert to rugby and has been playing with the Old Belvedere RFC U20s this season.
Salanoa, wearing the three shirt, makes a tackle against the Ireland U20s last month.
He also started at tighthead for the Leinster Development side that won 30-26 against the Ireland U20s in Donnybrook last month.
His first foray into rugby came in his final year of high school, when he began playing in the front row and helped Kahuku to a state championship in a second sport. Despite having played only a handful of rugby games and still being 18, he was then picked in the USA U20 squad for the 2016 World Junior Trophy in Zimbabwe.
Having been identified as a player with rich potential, Salanoa was helped to arrange a week-long trial with Leinster in late 2016 and he subsequently returned to Ireland to join Leinster’s sub-academy in September of last year.
Salanoa’s rugby journey has been continuing apace ever since and it is thought that he could be close to earning a senior debut for Old Belvedere in the Ulster Bank League.
The Hawaii native is understood to be a superb athlete, standing 6ft tall and tipping the scales at over 120kg, having dropped weight since his arrival into the Leinster set-up.
With a max bench press of 180kg and a squat of around 240kg, as well as impressive acceleration, it will be intriguing to follow how Salanoa continues to convert his athletic ability and American footballing prowess onto the rugby pitch.
Many within professional rugby have long believed that the US is an untapped source in terms of athletes who could potentially convert to rugby rather than playing American football.
With close links to the Pacific Islands, Hawaii certainly makes sense as a possible destination for identifying more promising athletes. As Salanoa looks to make a life for himself here in Irish rugby, his journey is likely to be watched closely by many others.