(Don Pati stands (center) w/ the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship trophy and his MVP trophy. Photo courtesy of USA Rugby)

Salt Lake City, UT–The close of the 2016 calendar marks a successful end to the Rugby Utah (RU) elite player development schedule including the USA Rugby-sanctioned National Development Academy’s (NDA) claiming of the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship, June’s National Tracking Camp (NTC), the inaugural season of the Men’s Premier Division (MPD) and the first-ever Frontier 7s Qualifier held in Utah.

And nothing typifies the success of these player development pathways better than former University of Utah All American and current Park City Haggis club standout Don Pati.

Dating back to his youth as a standout halfback for perennial power Highland High School Pati continued his standout career at the University of Utah that saw the Utes claim the 2010 Collegiate Rugby 7s Championship over the University of California. With other stints in the Bay Area with San Francisco Golden Gate and others Pati was unfortunately never able to break through to the USA Eagles 7s or 15s squads.

But when the opportunity came to participate in the Rugby Utah NTC last June and then the opportunity to play with the Rugby Utah National Development Academy 7s team, Pati jumped in head-first showing his resolve and mettle.

The Rugby Utah NDA 7s squad would go on to be captained by Pati and would take home the Denver 7s and Heartland 7s qualifiers in convincing fashion. A first-ever USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship would soon follow with Pati earning MVP honors.

As the success followed Pati and the Rugby Utah NDA 7s team USA Rugby coaches and staff would come calling. As a result, Pati has been added to the USA Rugby 7s squad for the opening leg of the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series in Dubai this weekend and could likely continue in such a role based on his continued strong performance.

“The last few weeks have been tough with training preparing for camp last week,” Pati commented while enroute to Dubai, “Preparing for camp was a different challenge. Now that I’ve made the team it is about making sure that I work harder to prove myself not only to everyone but to be consistent in every game so that I can keep a spot on the team. I have been trying to make this team the last eight years and I’m grateful or the opportunities that have finally come from working with Rugby Utah.”

Pati isn’t the only player showing that the pathway of opportunities provided by the Rugby Utah model seems to be working.

Current BYU All American Zach Webber was also recently called into the USA Rugby 7s training camp with Pati and was subsequently selected to the internationally prestigious Samurai 7s squad that competed in the New York 7s Tournament last weekend.

“The camp at the Olympic training center has been an accelerated learning experience,” Webber said, “I used to dream about playing with these players and at this level and now I’ve been training and playing with them. I’m somewhat younger so I’m really looking forward to what the squad has in store. I’m sure if I just put the work in there’s plenty of rugby in my future.”

Rugby Utah executive director Kimball Kjar said the unified focus of the clubs and their management teams has been the key to the success that Pati, Webber and other players are seeing.

“It’s all been there,” said Kjar in reference to the rugby talent in Utah, “We just needed to coordinate the efforts to help build that unified pathway. The credit really goes to the coaches and staffs of these clubs bringing these players along. And a huge thanks needs to go our dedicated Rugby Utah coaches and staff including Ken Rivera, Ben Nichols, Jeff Hullinger, Steve St. Pierre, Ishmael Tilialo and William Racule. Each of these men sacrificed a lot for the players and this vision of building a united pathway for our community. We’re very much looking forward to a strong 2017.”

Schedules for the 2017 Rugby Utah player, coach and referee development opportunities will be released in the coming weeks.

Players who have participated in the Rugby Utah development pathway in 2016 and that have been selected for other playing opportunities include:

  • Don Pati (Park City Haggis): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s / USA Eagles 7s
  • Zach Webber (BYU): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s / USA Eagles 7s Camp / Samurai 7s
  • Calvin Whiting (BYU): RU NDA 7s / Collegiate All Americans
  • Alex Vorster (BYU):  RU Talent ID Camp / Collegiate All Americans
  • Chad Gough (UofU): RU Talent ID Camp / Rugby NDA 7s / Collegiate All Americans
  • Matt Jensen (BYU): RU Talent ID Camp / Collegiate All Americans / USA Eagles
  • Tua Leai (BYU): RU Talent ID Camp / Collegiate All Americans / USA Eagles 7s
  • Kevin Schofield (BYU): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s
  • Josh Anderson (BYU): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s
  • Ioane Ioane (SL Gladiators): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s / RU MPD
  • Vernon Ale (Mana 7s / WVC Lions): RU NDA 7s / RU MPD
  • Robbie Ah Sue (Park City Haggis / Brothers 7s): RU NDA 7s / RU MPD
  • Jared Whippy (BYU): RU NDA 7s / Collegiate All Americans / RU MPD
  • Josh Whippy (BYU): RU NDA 7s / Collegiate All Americans / RU MPD
  • Peni Pahulu (Provo Steelers / Humless 7s): RU NDA 7s / RU MPD
  • Joseph Nichols (BYU): RU NDA 7s / RU MPD
  • Ben Keith (Humless 7s): RU NDA 7s
  • Keoni Dellerman (Weber State): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s
  • Naki Angilau (WVC Lions): RU Talent ID Camp / RU NDA 7s / RU MPD
  • Pei Kuli (Provo Steelers / Humless 7s): RU NDA 7s / RU MPD

Rugby Utah 2016 Key Events & Accomplishments

  • April–RU realigns state’s Referee Society
  • May–RU supports hosting of Varsity Cup Collegiate Rugby National Championship
  • June–USA Rugby National Tracking Combine
  • June–Rugby Utah hosts Club 7s State Championship
  • June–2nd Season of RU Tough Rugby League kicks off
  • June–RU NDA 7s win Denver 7s Championship
  • July–RU supports hosting of World Rugby’s Women’s Rugby Super Series
  • July–RU NDA 7s win Heartland 7s Championship
  • July–RU hosts Pioneer 7s Qualifier
  • August–RU NDA 7s win USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship
  • August–RU NDA 7s win Bowl at Serevi RugbyTown 7s
  • August–RU launches Men’s Premier Division
  • October–RU crowns SL Spartans as MPD Iosepa Shield Champions
  • November–RU hosts inaugural Rugby Utah Stakeholder’s Summit

Rugby Utah Ventures, LLC (RU) is the official Recognized Geographic Rugby Organization for USA Rugby and is focused on aggregating the strengths of rugby in the state of Utah, from the youth to the elite levels. The goal of RU is to unify rugby within the state through High Performance programs like the National / Olympic Development Academy and Community programs like the Rugby Business Network, Touch Rugby League and A 2nd Try Foundation. With these programs already producing positive results on and off the pitch the “United State of Rugby” looks to develop the most elite rugby players, coaches and referees and to develop the economic engines necessary to build and strengthen America’s rugby culture. For more information, visit www.rugbyutah.com  #UnitedStateofRugby