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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona men’s rugby finishes preseason on high note

For the Arizona men’s rugby team, preseason training started quickly in the middle of August and ended in November with a bang.

The team added 53 new players in August, more than doubling its roster. Twenty-three of those players were walk-ons.

“This gives our team enough bodies to fill out each of our three teams,” said Arizona men’s rugby head coach Sean Duffy .

This was Duffy’s second year as head coach. He is also the first UA coach to be paid in program history.

UA rugby recruits come from all over. There are international players from England, Nigeria, Japan and from the U.S. as well. The group is made up of three different teams which include developmental, junior varsity and varsity.

There are also two different key teams: the sevens and the fifteens. The sevens team plays with seven players and is more exclusive than the fifteens.

Duffy said the sevens team could be compared to wide receivers in football, possessing more agility and speed. The fifteens team plays with 15 players and is more diverse in terms of player ability and position.

Preseason training was an intense mini-camp that included training twice a day on some days, a new strength and conditioning program, sevens tournaments, junior varsity and developmental games and an intrasquad scrimmage: the Red-Blue Game.

The Wildcats didn’t hesitate to start out aggressive with their training and build an almost completely new team. The hard work of the mini-camp and the strength and conditioning aspect, all came to fruition during the preseason.

“When it comes to the culture of our sport, there is always a buy-in,” Duffy said. “The returners know the ropes, but it was great seeing the younger guys buy-in and seeing them bond so quickly.”

There was extreme dedication all throughout preseason. The players had a strength and condition program that was implemented this year and they chose the time and days to be there, such as 7 a.m., twice a week.

There were great takeaways from the strength aspect as well. The Wildcats were tested before and after the program and are seeing great results in terms of power output and strength.

The two biggest takeaways for Duffy were the results of the strength and conditioning, but also the fact that the team gelled together so quickly.

The team has faced adversity and mental tests that ultimately brought them closer together as a team. In the Pac-12 Sevens tournament at California, the Wildcats were down one man and played with six. On this sevens team, there was not a single senior.

“They responded really well [to it] and it was a good ending to [our] sevens aspect,” Duffy said. “It is in these diverse weekends and the tournaments that are really the key growth moments.”

The team has definitely grown over the last two years. There are nine players who have been invited to the USA Under-20 All-Americans camp this year. Freshman Steven Branham also received a scholarship to play rugby in Australia over the summer.

The team’s intrasquad Red-Blue Game was a fun reward to the end of its preseason with its competitive nature and more freedom in play-calling.

Overall, Duffy said the team is right on track going into the spring season.

Duffy’s motto for the preseason has been “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“We push guys to the limit in preseason only because the preseason is a sprint and the spring season is a marathon,” Duffy said. “And preseason shows who is going to be ready for that spring marathon.” 

Follow Gia Trevisan on Twitter.

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