Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Scoop... Preseason 2008

Recently, I talked with a few BYU rugby players on campus and gleaned some tidbits about the upcoming season.

I am always anxious to know when the Cougars have their preseason bouts as sometimes the craziest rugby games happen during the Fall semester. This year, however, the BYU rugby team is going to take a break... at least from public tests. Instead, they will be focusing the whole semester on improving their strength and conditioning with some special help from the BYU football trainers.

Additionally, a couple returning starters, team captain and forward Steve St. Pierre and back Vito Qaqa, have recently undergone surgeries and will need some time to rehabilitate. So, as much as I would like to see some rugby this semester, looks like we'll all have to wait until springtime.

In talking to Steve, I also learned that the team apparently has no returning second row... no locks at all! He even invited me to come and fill the position. As fun as that would be, I have already had enough repairs to my teeth and shoulders to render me an unreliable prospect. I mentioned the lack of locks to Rob Burton, and he said that he might try to fill the spot. Rob isn't quite 6 feet tall, and I personally think he should just stick to his knitting at the flanker position instead.

I thought about last year's locks and where they went... Jacob Sohn graduated and got recruited by Belmont Shore (Super League team); Brett Clark went on a mission to Washington; Mark Anderson graduated (or is ineligible?); and Mike Ratelle won't play this year for some reason (which I don't understand). So, is there anyone left? Anyone at all???

I was in the computer lab for one of my construction management classes the other day when I overheard a guy talking about rugby and being on the team. After I got to a good stopping point in my assignment, I went over to talk to him. His name is Ryan, and he tried out for the team this year. While a missionary in New Zealand, he often saw rugby matches on weekends and occasionally participated in a few games of touch. He stood up to greet me, and I was happy to see that he is quite tall, 6'5" I later learned. Not only is he tall, but he seems to have a lot of potential, having played football in high school and having recently gotten back into conditioning and benching over 300 pounds. Let's just say I felt quite comfortable in telling him that he would be a lock for BYU... pretty much guaranteed!

And so goes the preseason, my friends...

Perhaps this year presents a good opportunity for the rebuilding of the BYU Men's Rugby team. Not only did the team lose locks, but several key players as well, such as prop Derek Smith, hooker Duran Ngakuru, and center Grant Barnes, to name a few.

In recent years, BYU has seemed to struggle in the formation of a cohesive back line, and I wonder just how deep our roster will be in terms of experienced backs. I also wonder how quickly our new forwards will be integrated into the pack, BYU's signature area of dominance.

While I am indeed concerned about the formulation of a newer team, I must also recall the lessons learned from past experiences to let optimism ride out the tide on this one. Last year, I experienced all the same sentiments: BYU had similarly lost several key players and had to look to various newcomers to step up to the task. Did they succeed? Of course. Did they return to the National Championship stage? Yes. Was it easier than the previous year? No... but they got there nonetheless, surpassing my initial expectations to be sure.

And so, in summation of my outlook for this coming year, I answer the question, "Will BYU be very successful this year?" with a somewhat proud reply, "Why would they not be???"


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