Rugby to add developmental team with open tryouts

By Kelsey Price , Staff Writer

With a 6-0 fall season behind them, Utah rugby hopes to take its success into the 2010 spring season.

Even as they head into the off-season, the Utes are looking to develop their players and team as they held their first ever open tryouts earlier this week.

Approximately 35 new players8212;many of whom had never played rugby before8212;came to the two-day sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, each hoping to prove his merit to the U’s coaching staff, headed by former U.S. National team player Blake Burdette.

“We’re really looking to build the team for the future,” Burdette said.

With Utah making long-term development goals to build new players, it was only natural that the team incorporated a new developmental squad into the system.

“The new team is going to help us build our program on a long-term basis,” Burdette said. “We’ll be able to develop players in the regular spring season too, not just in the fall season.”

Players who make the cut in tryouts will be playing for the new developmental side of the rugby team. The new team will have its own coaching staff and schedule. Instead of playing against other Division-I schools, the developmental squad will play against Division-II teams such as Weber State and UVU.

The new developmental side will train with the rest of Utah rugby, especially during the next two months during the rugby off-season.

Next week, Utah rugby begins its strength and conditioning program to help keep its players fit and healthy during the winter months. A local gym has agreed to donate free memberships to all of the players. As a club sport, rugby is not guaranteed access or use of the U’s athletic facilities, so the team relies on other training locations in the winter.

“We’re on a pretty specific weight regiment during the winter,” said freshman Don Pati. “Coaches also expect us to run a ton, especially sprints. Our off-season isn’t very long at all, so we have to stay in shape.”

For the U, the off-season ends with the new year. The team will be attending a mini rugby camp in Mesquite, Nev., the first week of January. There, the team will undergo a full week of intensive rugby practices before the official start of preseason games.

Utah rugby opens its preseason in January against Arizona State and UC-Santa Barbara.

The regular spring season schedule for Utah will be released the first week of November. Burdette said he feels the season will be one of Utah’s best.

“We’ll be playing some great teams this year,” Burdette said. “This year we even get to play BYU, last year’s National Champs, at Rio Tinto. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for the team.”

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Mike Mangum/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Rugby finished the season undefeated. Going into the off-season, the team is focused on the spring and growing the program.