Salt Lake City, UT–Rugby Utah (RU), the USA Rugby recognized state organizing body, today announced the staff and schedule for it newly-formed Select XV Men’s Team.
The Rugby Utah Select XV Men’s Team will play in the inaugural Major Rugby Championship (MRC), an elite-level series of friendlies between some of America’s top teams, beginning with their match against the Glendale Raptors on March 11th.
The Select XVs will then travel to the fast-rising Austin Huns on April 1st. Return trips to Salt Lake City by both sides on April 29th and May 13th respectively will close out the bevy of matches with Glendale and Austin.
Other 2017 matches will see the Select XVs side developing local and collegiate-level relationships by facing a Utah Collegiate Select XV on May 20th and a Southern Utah All Stars team on May 27th.
The former will be composed of the state’s top collegiate players from BYU, U of U, USU and WSU while the latter will boast top men’s players from Southern Utah’s top collegiate and men’s players.
All Select XV home matches will be played at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City, UT.
The MRC will conclude with a championship series on June 3rd in Glendale, CO with teams and fixtures to be announced.
Leading the RU Select XV team in its inaugural season is former USA Rugby Eagle, Collegiate All American and University of Utah head coach Blake Burdette.
Burdette, a Utah-native, played his early rugby at Highland High School winning multiple national championships under the tutelage of the Larry Gelwix. He would go on to play football at the University of Utah under then-head-coach Urban Meyer, starting as an H-Back on the 2004 undefeated Fiesta Bowl team.
Following his playing career Burdette would go on to start as the Eagles first-choice hooker during the 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign. In his time as head coach at Penn State University he steered the way for their middle tier program in the East and won the Rugby East Conference in his first year.
The Select XV head coach shared his excitement in being able to lead this first-ever compiled squad of the state’s top talent.
“People recognize the talent that is here in Utah,” Burdette said, “But it’s taken a model like Rugby Utah to begin getting it moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward working with the talent we have here and seeing how we measure against some of America’s top teams.”
Rugby Utah CEO Kimball Kjar shared the chance to bring Burdette in the fold was a fortuitous one, but one that he believes will help lay the foundation for the future of the Select XV program.
“Blake and I have talked about this program for some time,” Kjar said, “And his interest in taking the reins in our first season is one I’m very excited about. There is potential here that most people don’t recognize and with the plans we have on the horizon I can’t think of anyone more suited to lead this team.”
Burdette is joined on his staff by Assistant Coach Ben Nicholls, who led the Rugby Utah National Development Academy 7s team to a 2017 National Championship. Nicholls, a former South African and Zimbabwean rugby 7s and 15s standout, will serve as Burdette’s back assistant coach, while pulling double duty on the pitch as a player.
Long-time servant of the Utah rugby community Jason Hoke has been selected to serve as the Select XV Team Manager. With Hoke’s steady leadership, local stalwart club Park City Haggis has been Utah’s top-performing USA Rugby Men’s team.
Stay tuned for more information on the Rugby Utah Select XV team and players in lead up to the team’s first match against the Raptors of Glendale March 11th.
Rugby Utah Select XV 2017 Schedule
March 11th: @ Glendale Raptors (3pm MT)
April 1st: @ Austin Huns (3.30pm CT)
April 29th: Glendale Raptor (Regional Athletic Complex)
May 13th: Austin Huns (Regional Athletic Complex)
May 20th: Utah Collegiate Select XV (Regional Athletic Complex)
May 27th: So. Utah All Stars (Regional Athletic Complex)
June 2nd: @ MRC Finals–TBD (Glendale, CO)
Rugby Utah Select XV Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Blake Burdette
Asst. Coach: Ben Nicholls
Team Manager: Jason Hoke