Nearly two months ago, the BYU Men's Rugby team held it's annual, Fall semester tryouts. While I must admit I was somewhat anxious to see who would be returning, I was especially intrigued to see what new players would come out of the woodwork...
Amongst the 50+ players hitting the bags, I am pleased to say that a few familiar faces from last season are back in the mix, namely, Pila Vimahi, Haini Leaaetoa, Sean Howard, Mike Price, Mikey Su'a, Apenisa Malani, Joey Mount, and Andrew Harrison. Also, a number of notable players have returned to the Cougars after serving LDS missions: TJ Allred, David Root, and Ryan Roundy.
As far as the newbies go, well... we've got some potential, folks, very raw potential that is! Although a number of the fellas dawned Highland and United rugby garb, it was obvious that quite a few of the other hopefuls were recently-recycled from the beloved BYU Football team's cuts the day before. And although these boys looked pretty fit to be sure, their 'deer-in-the-headlights' performance in the recent scrimmage against UVU left some of us Super Fans wondering...
Now, before I spout off in a fit of circular logic, let me at least give this report some order... I'll break it down in three parts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
The Good: BYU Rugby is BYU Rugby is BYU Rugby.
Okay, that may sound lame, but let's face it... BYU has had some truly scattered performances in past preseasons. But somehow, someway, our BYU coaches and players always find a way to corral any errant emotions, individualistic play, or disorganized execution to produce a winning team by the time the regular season gets into full swing.
At the recent tryouts, I must say that I was impressed by the intensity with which the coaches kept the boys moving. One specific drill had them switching positions on the ground at Coach Wayne's call before finally hopping up to hit and wrap the bag. That may not sound too difficult, but when you consider that there were at least 10 stations to cycle through continuously, then you can only imagine how tiring it was. Good to see the bar has been raised! (Note to football recruits: Welcome to rugby where the tackling never stops!)
One positive here for the team thus far: it looks like we've got some pretty physically solid fellas in the ranks, especially in the forwards. Now... if they can get BYU Rugby in their brains and down to their fingers and toes, then we'll have a good crop of talent for next season!
The Bad: BYU is going to further limit the amount of players on the BYU Men's Rugby roster to some 40 players or so.
You would think that the university would be more willing to expand the program after its first National Title rather than handicap it... Yeah, it's an interesting thought. But perhaps we fans just need to maintain the optimistic viewpoint held by the BYU Rugby coaches that a smaller roster actually improves the team's potential for development. We'll see...
Another area that looks to be somewhat shaky this preseason is the BYU backline (I know, say it ain't so!). Just when it looked like Our Boys had really put together a solid crew to take the load off the forwards, it's back to the drawing board. Yes, there are some solid returning starters in Dylan Lubbe and Tupu Folau, but the rest are basically still in the woodwork.
I hate to say it, but if the BYU backline can't return to that high level of fluidity we saw last season, then all of us BYU Rugby fans might be witnessing a whole load of rolling mauls and PCs from the forward pack as in previous years...
Prove me wrong fellas, please... for your own sakes!
The Ugly: The total slop of a scrimmage many of us witnessed take place between BYU and UVU a couple of weeks ago was sad to the point of receiving the label, "DEMOTIVATING."
Considering the lack of publicity for the match, a relatively large crowd still turned out on a rainy night only to witness garbage in motion (sssssuuuuupppppeeeerrrr ssssllllloooowwwww mmmmmooooottttiiiioooonnnn) ... sorry, but that's not rugby, my friends. True rugby carries with it a pleasant, aesthetic quality; rubbish does not.
I thought and still believe that a scrimmage is meant to be a point of observation and learning for coaches, players, and especially new recruits. Too bad staring at a pile of dung doesn't improve your rugby skills or understanding whatsoever...
And to think I was tempted to pitch the blame on the newly converted football players... But no, I'm not going to do that, folks, as fun as it would be (and as much as they appeared to have zero clue about what to do on the pitch). Instead, I'm going to throw the whole blanket over all of us who know better: coaches, players, alumni, and otherwise rugby-enlightened individuals. If we don't help out, then who will???
So here it is, my friends, after a brutal dose of soapbox speak... I invite you to share your thoughts, offer some coaching and expertise, give of yourselves, or do something, anything, to continue in the growth and improvement of what we all hope every year will be BYU's greatest sports team, the BYU Rugby team!
For starters, or "for newbies" I should say, I offer my house as a venue to learn more about rugby on the big screen.
All of you football players that don't know what people keep telling you to do: come on over, watch some rugby, and ask questions. Take a moment in your off-time to get rugby in your heads! All of you high school transplants, secondary, and starters: Come on over and teach each other the game; learn and see how BYU should get it done every time!
Suffice it to say that the window of potential for improvement is wide open, and thus BYU Rugby Forever invites you and I to do our part... After all, we want BYU Rugby to continue to be BYU Rugby for a long, long time!!!
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