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The Weber State University men’s rugby team has had a remarkable year and will look to continue its hot play on April 19, when the club will travel to the University of Washington to take on the Huskies in part of this year’s Varsity Cup.
Hard work and team development have been a focus for the squad this year. The Wildcats have gone 7-1 so far this season, their lone loss coming to the third-ranked team in the country, Brigham Young University. Their wins include impressive victories over Montana State University, 67-0, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 85-0.
The hard work the team has been put in is starting to pay off, as measured by this year’s success. Much of that success has been due to strong leadership.
First-year head coach Richard Johnson and team captain Johnny Francis are team leaders and two of the many reasons for this year’s achievements. Francis has been a member of the team for five years.
“This is really the first year Weber (rugby) has had a full-time coach in probably about three or four years now,” Francis said. “It has been a slow building process.”
Francis is the team’s scrum-half, also serving as the club president and dealing with most of the behind-the-scenes details necessary for a club team to exist at WSU. Working directly with Campus Recreation leadership and school administrators is part of the club president’s responsibilities.
The season started with a lot of unknowns, as new players were coming together along with Johnson. The team set reasonable expectations early and has surpassed them.
“Being a first-year coach of a Weber program that has been around for a long time in college rugby, completing the season with a full set of guys and competing, is what we wanted to do,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said he foresees a favorable quarterfinal match-up against the Huskies.
“I think we have a pretty good chance at winning, if not dominating them,” he said. “They are a Division 1 team and we are a Division 2 team, but I think we have a lot more size. We have talent. The guys do really well and have tenacity. Our guys try hard and work harder.”
The Wildcats don’t shy away from playing against Division 1 schools, which is helping to bring prominence to WSU’s program.
“BYU, Utah and Utah State are big Division 1 schools that honor all the big rugby traditions,” Johnson said. “So having Weber being able to compete against those guys is a big deal.”
With a victory in Seattle, the Wildcats would then host the semifinal game at WSU the following week, with the Varsity Cup final being held at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 3.
The team has a unique opportunity to make some noise in its first-ever National Championship Tournament and cap off an already stellar season. More information on the team is available on its Facebook page and on the WSU Club Recreation home page.