Paul Mullen has said that he is honoured to play for the USA Rugby team as he prepares to make his 20th appearance for the side.
He is eligible to play for the United States as he has an American grandparent.
The Aran Islands native will play Ireland for the second time in his career on Saturday night in Dublin.
He first played the side in 2018 after they had beaten New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium.
Since then, he has played the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and has made a name for himself in Major League Rugby.
“To pull on the American jersey and to represent the red, white and blue – what an honour,” Mullen exclaimed.
The 19-time USA international has not been at home in Ireland since the first lockdown.
RugbyPass did a documentary with the forward during his time on the Aran Islands before returning to the States.
“I was absolutely delighted, in one aspect to be able to spend some time with my family, to be able to help out.”
However, he had to return to the US whenever he could.
The 29-year-old started playing rugby for Glenstal Abbey School when he was 13 and eventually progressed to the Munster underage ranks.
Mullen was called up for the Ireland U19s in 2010 after his performances at the underage level.
When it was time for him to go to college, his parents wanted him to study abroad.
“They thought that if I stayed in Ireland, I’d go off playing rugby.”
The tighthead prop moved to Texas and studied for his degree in Marine Engineering Technology at Texas A&M University and then received his master’s in Marine Resource Management in 2017.
Throughout this time, the Irish-born United States international was playing rugby but at a low level.
Mullen wanted to take his game to the next level and reached out to strength and conditioning coach Ed Cosner, who had worked with World Cup-winning New Zealanders Ben and Owen Franks.
His work with the strength and conditioning coach earned the prop a contract with the Houston Sabercats in the MLR and, later, a call-up to the USA Eagles.
Mullen has plied his trade in the MLR ever since and currently plays for the Utah Warriors, who sit second in the Western Conference after 14 games.
The Galwayman will play against Ireland on Saturday and then face the LA Giltinis next Saturday in a massive clash between the two best teams in the West.
His roommate for the week, Luke Carty, plays for the LA Giltinis and the pair will play each other one game after playing with each other for the US national team.
“[The rugby in MLR] has come on a lot. I’m really excited to see where it will be in three or four years time…the progress made in the past 3/4 years, if that progress is kept up…it’ll be a serious league.”
Having players like Matt Giteau and Ma’a Nonu come into the league will also help the growth of MLR across the US and worldwide.
18 out of 23 players in the USA matchday squad for Saturday’s game against Ireland play for an MLR side.
Mullen is happy to be back with a group that he considers family, even if there are some new faces in the team.
The fact everyone is together again after being forced apart because of the pandemic is something Mullen cherishes.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, you know. I mean, just even being in camp here, granted there’s a lot of restrictions because COVID, it’s very different but just to be amongst the boys again…is brilliant.”
The USA play Ireland in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin at 7:15 pm on Saturday, July 10th.
The game will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2.