Rugby returns with smaller team, high expectations

The men’s rugby team has more athletes participating this spring than ever before. Their first competition of the new season will be in Cedar Rapids on March 31. 

Coach Brent Piper plans to coach a little differently than he did last year. “This season we really want to focus on the basics of rugby. We are also working to improve our defensive speed and attack. We have about double the guys this season, so that’s a big improvement. We are a smaller team, but we are built for speed.”

Rugby is up and coming but still not known about by many people. In order to help try and fix this, Piper said We have partnered with the Cedar Falls Rec Center to offer non contact rugby for second-eighth graders. We hope to have junior high rugby league in the near future. Starting the sport young just like all other sports is very important for mainstreaming rugby. We want to make sure boys and girls of all ages get an opportunity to try rugby. The more kids we get involved with rugby, the more mainstream it will be. We also need to continue to show that rugby is safe. The no pads part makes people nervous. Rugby has safe tackling techniques to remove your head from contact and strict rules against any contact above the shoulders.”

Piper said his goal for the season is “State Champions! Every year that’s our goal. I want to get all of our players plenty of playing time. We practice all year for game situations, so it is important they all get the opportunity to put their training to test. Plus rugby is new, different, physical and really fast paced, so it takes a game situation to help you grow.”

Senior Noah Thyer is in his second year playing rugby, after he initially got involved after playing football and figuring that rugby was very similar to football, so he gave it a shot. 

Thyer said it’s “exciting, tiring and fun.”  

He said rugby is not quite the same as any other sport because “the mentality for rugby is a lot harder to learn because it’s just so different from other sports. You really have to learn to make quick decisions and have a lot of trust in your teammates. Some plays on the field require extreme quick thinking, and I feel people underestimate that.”

He said there are a lot of misconceptions about rugby, such as it’s very dangerous, confusing and only for men. 

Thyer said rugby has allowed him to be a leader. “I feel the responsibility of trying to help newer people understand and not let them be discouraged and keep them motivated and out for the sport.” 

He said there are many different skill sets that are needed. “I’m one of the bigger kids on the team, so I feel I bring more size and weight to our team.” 

Though Thyer will be graduating this spring, he said, “For what I want to leave behind, I want to make sure rugby is more outspoken and push for more people to play it and grow the community,” but before he leaves, he has a pretty simple goal for his last season: “To win.”

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