San Diego State hosts Arizona in a friendly Saturday. Last year, this match up would have been a College Premier Division inter-conference preseason test match. However, the Aztecs removed themselves from the premier league over the off season.
It was a difficult decision for San Diego State, as up until the date then USA Rugby collegiate director Todd Bell asked teams to indicate whether or not they’d return to the CPD, now DI-A, the Aztec camp seemed conflicted.
Nonetheless, SDSU is now competing in the Pacific Mountain West Conference, to the chagrin of new coach Matt Hawkins, hired long after the decision to leave DI-A, and some current players.
“It was obviously a decision made by certain people within our organization. I unfortunately wasn’t a part of that,” said Hawkins. “In speaking to the guys, and myself, we want to play at the highest level. We always want to push ourselves against the best. This weekend is an opportunity to do that.”
Arizona beat Arizona State early last month, but Saturday will be Arizona’s first hit-out of the New Year. Just SDSU’s second, both teams will have some rust to knock off and confidence to build heading into their league seasons.
Hawkins and assistant coach Richie Walker will also use the friendly to further the selection process.
“We’ve talked about it. We definitely haven’t got the selections completely figured out yet, and the positioning completely figured out, because we’ve got a couple that can sort of be here, there and everywhere,” said Hawkins.
“Our goal is just basically put the best 15 rugby players on the park and just get the ball out and moving, so this weekend is obviously an opportunity for us to mix things up a bit and see where other players can fit in, and if they do fit in maybe look at them a little bit more.”
Additionally, the match with Arizona gives the Aztecs a chance to prove they’ve not dropped in ability just because they’ve dropped a division.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. We want to get back to playing in the CPD, we want to get back to playing the best, or whatever that sort of conference ends up being or that tournament ends up being,” said Hawkins. “I’m not sure how that’s all going to play out, but yeah we want to be back there.”