BOULDER, Colo. – Competitive rugby environments for college-grade players aren’t so easy to find during the summer months. The majority of senior club sides turn their attention towards sevens just as college players are finishing final exams – which is not always a realistic option for players in the tight five. Meanwhile, highly-attentive and well-coached rugby camps on college campuses, like the one held at Life University, are generally geared for high school athletes.
These are just a couple of reasons why college players who are proactive in their rugby development, and sometimes lucky enough to have a connection or two abroad, will leave the States in order to improve their individual game over the summer.
No team will be seeing more of its roster go the international route to enhance its rugby prowess than San Diego State. A year after AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American and San Diego State fly half Kalei Konrad had an experience of a lifetime training with Dan Carter at the Auckland Rugby Academy, six more Aztecs have made their way to New Zealand’s North Island to immerse themselves in rugby.
“After seeing Kalei’s progress last year, we expect the players currently training at the Auckland Academy to return with a new perspective on the professional work ethic required to play the game, and a substantial improvement in skills and decision-making,” explained San Diego State Head Coach Alex Lichtig.
The one-time San Diego State All-American-turned-coach has played rugby abroad and understands the development for these young men goes beyond what they’ll learn between the touch lines.
“The players will also come back with a unique experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” continued Lichtig. “In a way, I think that’s what the sport is all about.”
Another D1A student-athlete logging training hours in New Zealand is Michigan’s Andre Cargill. The full back studying Biology started every match for the Wolverines this past fall, scoring three tries in Big Ten University play. Next fall, Head Coach Brandon Sparks will expect an even bigger impact from Cargill following his productive summer living in a country that eats, sleeps, and breathes rugby.
All-Rugby East Honorable Mention forward and St. Bonaventure loose forward Luis Carpio has recently flown south of the equator, as well, to improve his already-well-rounded skills. Carpio is in the midst of a two-week-long camp at The Sharks Academy in Durban, South Africa. The Academy is operated by Super Rugby’s Sharks, and offers an elite training environment for rugby players who have aspirations to play at the international or professional level.
“I’ve known of The Sharks Academy and people that have gone there to train, so it was always been something that I wanted to do,” said Carpio. “Rugby is my passion, and The Sharks Academy will help me pursue my goal of playing for the USA Men’s National Team.”
As much as Carpio is excited about his personal growth during his two weeks with the Sharks, the junior-to-be is just as eager to get back to New York and share his new wealth of rugby knowledge with his teammates at St. Bonaventure.
“This opportunity is not only great for myself, but as well as my teammates and St. Bonaventure,” Carpio exclaimed. “Everything I will learn I will pass on to my teammates and Coach Clarence Picard. This experience is not only about myself, but about the success of St. Bonaventure rugby.”