Arizona, Lindenwood to do battle in Texas

D1A Rugby: Arizona, Lindenwood to do battle in Texas
Photo Credit: JD Black (left) & Karen Drinkwater (right)

BOULDER, Colo. – The campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, will act as a meeting point for a nonconference match between No. 11 Arizona and No. 3 Lindenwood.

“We’re excited to match up with a quality program again as we look to play a difficult schedule and challenge ourselves,” said Arizona Head Coach Sean Duffy.

It’s not surprising that there is excitement coming out of the Wildcats’ camp. Although recent matches have brought mixed results, positives have been accumulating for the Arizona program. A Jan. 23 loss to No. 5 Utah saw the Wildcats push the Utes to the brink of defeat, and last week’s game against New Mexico allowed Duffy and his staff to give a few reserves the opportunity to make a statement in an A-side match.

A pair of freshmen, in particular, stood out against the Lobos. Wing Jeremy Fleet and flanker Ryan Fitzpatrick each scored tries, and impressed in other facets of their game. The Man of the Match, however, was sophomore full back Tyler Sousley – who has already honed in on a starting spot with the first XV.

“We made some good strides on installing some things the past couple weeks, and using the New Mexico match to get some guys a rest means we’ll be fully fresh going into this big game,” Duffy added.

Lindenwood is in a similar boat as Arizona. The Lions were most recently spotted in California for a weekend doubleheader against Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara and, though they didn’t win both matches, there were plenty of encouraging lessons brought back to St. Charles, Mo.

“The West Coast Tour provided a great benchmark to see where we are early in the season against the best in D1A,” said Lindenwood Head Coach JD Stephenson. “We took away a lot of areas of improvement and some things we did well to continually improve upon, and help ready ourselves for a tough Mid-South schedule.”

The Lions’ Feb. 27 conference opener against No. 2 Life looms just three weeks away, but Lindenwood knows there is a task ahead not to be taken lightly.

“Arizona is a very tough side with coach [Dave] Sitton laying a foundation that coach Duffy has impressively carried on,” noted Stephenson. “They are a young and hungry side that has already put up some great scores.

“We are excited for the opportunity to face some more quality opposition this early in the season.”

An intriguing mini-story within Saturday’s top-15 showdown is the fact that eight soon-to-be teammates will be squaring off against one another. The Men’s Junior All-Americans that will take on Canada Feb. 13 includes four players from both Arizona and Lindenwood.

Fort Worth is not only a mid-way point for the two Canterbury Top 20 squads, but will also be played in succession with the Red River fixture between TCU and Texas Tech.

“We’re delighted to have two elite programs converge in Forth Worth for a highly anticipated match,” said TCU Director of Rugby TeShay Flowers. “Saturday’s doubleheader will not only expose fans to some of the best college rugby in Texas, but some of the best college rugby in the country.”