BOULDER, Colo. – After three consecutive National Championship runs, Life has made a name for itself in the college rugby world. A side that has been able to emerge from the dominant Mid-South Conference victorious each year, it has to take on some stiff competition in order to prepare for the grind. This weekend, that competition will be South Carolina.
Life hasn’t hit the pitch since a match against Clemson in October, but this weekend gives them the opportunity to get back into competing shape.
“After a positive fall, we kind of restarted the clock with our preseason,” said Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence. “We’ve built our training into a number of contested sessions and internal scrimmages. We will be expectedly rough around the edges but this is the right time to get into our first contest outside our program’s four walls.”
The contest against Clemson was good fall experience for the Running Eagles, but they don’t enter the difficult part of their schedule until late February. These matches early in the year give the Life coaches a chance to gauge the young talent and evaluate the team before they dive into their Mid-South slate. That can be a challenge due to the high level of talent at a program like Life.
There are the proven guys, such as Harley Davidson, Blane McIlroy, and Zander Van Schalkwyk, who have been pivotal pieces in the team’s success the last few seasons, but there are others who are newer to the program that are using this time to show the coaches they belong in the starting 15.
Mitchell Wilson and Duncan Van Schalkwyk both took part of the U20 camp which faced Lindenwood University earlier this month, and return to Marietta with the experience of competing against the Lions. Coach Lawrence has noticed a difference in Duncan Van Schalkwyk, specifically, after the camp, noticing that the sophomore “has improved his decision making.”
Cody Melphy, a product of the Glendale Raptors, has joined Life and made an immediate impact, using his natural leadership ability to solidify the midfield. There is also a position battle for scrum half.
‘Marcus Walsh and Kevin Lynch are both pushing for the nine jersey,” said Lawrence. “This week will tell us more on who will lock down that jersey.”
The Gamecocks will not back down from the challenge that Life presents. They finished their fall season with a heartbreaking defeat in the Southeastern Championship match to Tennessee, losing from a try in the 80th minute. Tennessee was the only team that South Carolina wasn’t able to best, and finished its fall semester with an 8-2 record. The Gamecocks have an excellent coaching, and will be a great test to start the Running Eagles’ 2016 campaign.
“South Carolina has seen tremendous growth in their program’s numbers,” said Lawrence, “which means we’ll see a bunch of young men hungry to be one through 15 on their roster. We expect a tough contest and we’re grateful for the opportunity to play.”