College rugby is underway and soon it will be underway overseas, as well.
While the number of prominent American rugby players playing at universities overseas is small, it’s a growing number, and an option some athletes might still wish to take. USA player Scott LaValla opted to attend Dublin University and play for their rugby team, Trinity, as a freshman and went on to captain Trinity, and is now playing for Stade Francais.
Trinity, coached by current USA assistant Tony Smeeth, has a long history of having American graduate students and undergraduates play for them. At present, Conor McGill is at Trinity after spending time at Spearhead Academy. McGill is playing on the team’s 2nd side, but his work ethic and dedication could see him break into the 1sts eventually.
Trinity is also rumored to be getting another American in come January. Former St. Mary’s captain Andrew Cooke was thought to be going there, but changed his mind.
Meanwhile, other schools have Americans playing for them, as well. USA U20 captain Will Magie returns to Leeds University.
After a 2011-2012 season marred by injury, Magie is ready to get back on the field. He is gearing up for the Varsity Match with Leeds Metropolitan, which will be played October 3 at Headingley Stadium in front of at least 10,000 people.
Magie has also been working out with the Leeds Carnegie academy for the past several weeks.
“A strong focus for me this year is my strength and conditioning, which is going to be a big part of my development and now I am injury free I can really focus on this,” Magie told RUGBYMag.com.
But he’s still enjoying the glow of winning the Junior World Rugby Trophy, and deservedly so.
“The JWRT was such a great experience and sometimes I still don't actually believe we did win it,” Magie said. “We had such a great group of players and a unique atmosphere amongst such a diverse group of players that was truly incredible. I get such a sense of pride knowing that I was part of a group of players and importantly a coaching staff that took a big step forward for age-grade rugby in the US. Obviously I wish I could be a part of the side going to France this summer but I am too old and will have to spectate! I know Coach Lawrence, Hickey, Hickie and Kelly etc will do a great job and build on the mould they have from last year which has proven to be a success! Next summer is a big step up and we should be under no illusions that it will be very difficult to stay in the top tier but I believe we can do it.”
Magie is still an undergrad at Leeds, while two well-known college grads are doing their graduate work in the UK. Jason Law is still at Oxford working on his graduate studies. The former Cal player was teamed up with Derek Asbun at Oxford. Asbun, however, submitted his dissertation this summer and is playing with Rosslyn Park RFC.
Law is working toward his Master’s in Sustainable Urban Development and has another year left at Kellogg and said he’s dead set on competing for a regular starting position this year.
“But the main priority is to come out victorious in the Varsity Match,” Law told RUGBYMag.com. “I am taking everything day-to-day focusing on getting better each session, which will hopefully put me in a contributing position to help beat the Light Blues in December.”
While Oxford has been the common destination for American rugby players, with the likes of Pete Dawkins, Gary Hein, Ray Lehner, Kurt Shuman, Adam Russell and Will Johnson joining Asbun and Law as Dark Blues, Cambridge could well sport an American on their side of the field, too.
Dartmouth All American Nate Brakeley is going to be studying engineering at Cambridge and is expected to try out for the team when he gets there. The big, rangy lock could be just what the doctor ordered for the Light Blues. But Brakeley is not in town as yet.