The official opening weekend is in the past and now we are starting to get a better look at the talent of the clubs in each conference. In the National Collegiate Rugby Conference (NCRC) week two is a start for some and for the others, it’s yet another week of rugby.
Western Washington kicks off this weekend against the Central Washington Wildcats (non DI-A side). For the Wildcats, this will be a chance to bounce back against a big loss to UBC in Seattle a week ago.
“That game gave us a lot to work on in our front row and attacking style both offensively and defensively,” CWU coach Tony Pacheco said. “After we evaluated the film, as a team, we worked a lot on our defensive shape this week. We need to apply more pressure and create turnover opportunities. Moreover, there was an emphasis this week on our 9, 10 combination getting us into our pattern and attacking at a faster tempo.”
For the Vikings, it’s going to be a chance to finally strap on the boots for real. “The boys have been practicing a lot since coming back from the holidays and had good numbers for inter-squad scrimmages to prepare for Central,” said Western coach Colin Campbell. “We expect big things, not only against Central, but for the entire year because we have returned a lot of players who have good experience at a high level.”
Down in Corvallis, it will be battle of two undefeated squads in powerhouses Oregon State and University of British Columbia. League champions OSU took out Simon Fraser last week, but have their hands full with league runner-up UBC.
“UBC is a very successful club for whom we have great respect and we always look forward to the challenge they pose," said Oregon State coach Anthony Lally. “Keeping up the tempo and minimizing our error rate in contact are key challenges for us coming off last week. We have also used this week to further develop combinations and structure which will be critical in creating pressure at the gain line.”
For the Thunderbirds, it’s going to be about shaking off an easy win two weekends ago weekend against Central’s B-side and playing sound rugby against a team like the Beavers.
For the University of Oregon and Washington, this is a chance to get the season started and get an opponent to beat up on instead of each other.
“We’ve been training since the fall with not a lot of games leading up to this point, so our guys are pumped up and ready to see another jersey in front of them,” Husky head coach Brian Schoener said. “These two programs have that familiarity factor with each other, but we are concentrated on our scheme and what we can do with our talent in this game and our expectations for the year.”
For the Ducks and new head coach Duffin McShane, this marks a new era of coaching and with that are a lot of readjustments to the culture.
“My coaches and I have put in a lot of different things for this team (study tables, fitness outside of practice and community service work) and it’s going to take some time, we get that,” McShane said. “The important thing is the players have responded well and have been willing to make the sacrifices.”
And in terms of having your first league game now instead of last week against an opponent like UW?
“Not having that game threw us off a bit, but that’s not anything we can control,” McShane said. “Having played against UW in some camps earlier has helped us and we, as a coaching staff, have restructured the practices accordingly for this game.”
With that in mind, it’s time once again to get ready for a great weekend of rugby in the Pacific Northwest.