Week 1 Preview

D1A Rugby: Week 1 Preview
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Men’s Division 1A Week 1 Preview

Life @ Oklahoma

Texas A&M @ Arkansas State

The weekend of February 18, 2012 has long been in the minds of college rugby players and supporters. For many teams it is the beginning of a new chapter in their rugby stories while for others it is a date that marks the beginning of a long-awaited vengeance. Over the past nine months players have been training with their teams to become bigger, stronger, and faster in hopes of attaining the ever-elusive Men’s Division 1A National Championship. All the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice will be culminating this weekend when the Men’s Division 1A season kicks off with Life at Oklahoma and Texas A&M at Arkansas State.

This season signifies a new chapter in the storied traditions of Oklahoma and Texas A&M. After disappointing seasons for both teams in 2011 they look to ignite past winning traditions with victories this weekend. Oklahoma faces a tough challenge with Life but OU Head Coach, Kenneth Forehand, feels that tough rugby will bring the Sooners success this weekend. “We know Life will be fit and ready to go. We need to come out being physical and maintain our intensity levels throughout.”

The Sooners will see young players thrust into a highly competitive level of play and in order to excel this season they must keep learning. “We asked a lot of our players last year and expect to see improvement in our performance each week. If we are learning each week, and building on that, we will be successful.” In 2011, Oklahoma finished the Division 1A season at 0-6.

Consistency is an important indicator of success for Texas A&M Director of Rugby, Craig Coates. “This season we are looking for greater consistency week in and week out.” With such a demanding conference schedule it is of the utmost importance to constantly play at a high level in order to remain healthy and competitive. Coates believes, despite A&M’s minimal match preparation, that they are ready to play. “We come into this match a little underdone in terms of match preparation, however practices have been solid and the players are fresh.” Texas A&M finished the 2011 Division 1A season with a 2-4 record.

Life and Arkansas State begin the season with the intent of continuing to play great rugby in order to get another shot at the playoffs. Life Director of Rugby, Dan Payne, said, “Our primary goal is the same as it is for any year. That would be to continue to work to improve and increase our overall standard of play versus the standard we achieved in the previous year.” In 2011, Life’s first year of collegiate rugby competition, the Running Eagles finished 5-2 in Division 1A play and achieved a high standard of play that saw them to the quarterfinals where they lost to Cal 10-43. Arkansas State finished the season at 7-1 after reaching the Division 1A semifinals where they lost to BYU 15-36.

Before any team can make it to the playoffs they must take care of the task on hand. For Life, Oklahoma will be a tough, early season, road test. Payne said, “In addition to the Oklahoma players being big, physical players that will be excited for the first hit of the year, we’ll be traveling to play Oklahoma on their home field.”

Both matches this weekend will kick-off at 1:00 PM Central Time on Saturday, February 18.

Life @ Oklahoma- 13:00 Central Time, Saturday 2/18/2012

2011 Result: Life 93 – 10 Oklahoma

Notable Returners

Life– All-American Cameron Dolan 2011 Stats (9 tries); All-American Joseph Cowley 2011 Stats (26 conversions, 6 tries); All-American Kyle Grossheider 2011 Stats (4 tries)

Oklahoma– Bradley Henry 2011 Stats (2 tries); Ryan Bachman 2011 Stats (1 try)

Texas A&M @ Arkansas State- 13:00 Central Time, Saturday 2/18/2012

2011 Result: Arkansas State 52 – 17 Texas A&M

Notable Returners

Arkansas State – All-American Danie Swanepoel 2011 Stats (7 tries); All-American Patrick Sullivan 2011 Stats (6 tries, 29 conversions, 11 penalties); All-American Shaun Potgieter 2011 Stats (5 tries)

Texas A&M- Connor Mills 2011 Stats (2 tries, 7 conversions); Tyler Gesner 2011 Stats (2 tries)

For all Men’s Division 1a fixtures, results, and stats go to stats.usarugby.org.