BOULDER, Colo. – A young rugby team can use all of the match time it can get its hands on, and New Mexico was exposed to 80 minutes of running rugby from the Indigenous Australian Invitational Rugby U20 team.
In the midst of a two-week tour across the United States, the 28-player IAIR U20s team stopped in Albuquerque, N.M., to tangle with the Lobos.
“The team is ecstatic about this tour,” expressed IAIR U20s Head Coach Darrell Morris. “They are also very humbled by the hospitality they have received.”
Playing with a flare and creativity rarely seen in college rugby, as well as a pinpoint-accurate kicking game, IAIR outpaced New Mexico, 52-12, in the first half, and eventually secured an 85-17 win.
“They were clearly a team of select players with exceptional skill and speed,” described New Mexico Head Coach Tom Goslau. “In particular, they had a kind of mental quickness you don’t see in the American game that is a result of playing rugby from a very young age.”
New Mexico was not only impressed by IAIR’s kicking game and high rugby IQ, but couldn’t help but notice the U20s’ continuity and willingness to play as a team.
“There was never a moment when these players were not 15 individuals working as one,” added Goslau.
The lopsided win was a positive result for the IAIR U20s, but the team still believes it has yet to play its best rugby of the tour.
“It was a good first hit out,” said Morris. “We knew the American teams were strong in the set piece, and it took a few minutes for us to find our feet, but it worked out. We still have a lot of work to do, though.”
IAIR’s skill was no doubt the biggest factor in the 68-point win, but it didn’t help New Mexico’s cause that the hosts took one on the chin from 14th-ranked Colorado State just three days prior. Still, the Lobos were pleased with the experience and honored to share the pitch with the Australians.
“Playing between two weekend D1A matches is a tough one, but our boys are well-fit despite being a smaller team,” Goslau said. “No one is complaining about having three big matches in the span of eight days, and the boys are already getting excited for the trip to Air Force this Saturday.”
For the IAIR touring squad, a lot of good work is happening away from the pitch, as well. The team has set up several cultural exchanges between Native American communities while on tour.
“This is not just a rugby tour,” explained Morris. “This is as much a mentoring and cultural tour as it is about rugby. The guys played an all-Native American team in Gallup, which has been a significant cultural highlight.”
The IAIR U20s continue their tour across the southwest, while New Mexico will head north to face off against No. 10 Air Force, which is coming off a massive win over rival Army.