RUGBY UTAH ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF ITS ELITE MEN’S 7s TEAM
Newly formed all-star 7s team to make its tournament debut at USA Rugby Elite City 7s in Philadelphia August 29-30.
(July 16, 2015 – Salt Lake City, Utah) — The next building block of recently founded Rugby Utah fell into place today when Rugby Utah announced the formation of its elite Men’s Olympic Development Academy (ODA) 7s team. The announcement was made on the heels of Rugby Utah’s recent inaugural and highly successful National Talent Combine held in conjunction with USA Rugby.
The Rugby Utah ODA team is the official National Development Academy sanctioned by the sport’s National Governing Body of USA Rugby and is meant to develop and broaden the local and national opportunities of Olympic and International caliber talent supporting the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Rugby 7s National Team campaigns.
Headlining the Rugby Utah ODA team are some of the state’s top collegiate players with both perennial national champion Brigham Young University and the resurgent University of Utah making up the majority of the team with 12 current and former Cougars and Utes.
Of the total 21 Rugby Utah ODA team 15 of the squad members have their roots in Utah having played their youth, high school or college rugby in Utah.
Notable players such as BYU sophomore Calvin Whiting and Utah senior Daniel Christensen not only featured dominantly for their respective collegiate teams, but also grew up playing rugby for their respective high school club teams of United and Highland.
Two members also have already gone on to represent their country with the USA Rugby U20 National Team in Whiting, who also captained the team, and current BYU junior Tua Leai, who helped the USA U20’s capture the country’s first ever World Rugby Trophy in 2012.
Other additions to the inaugural Rugby Utah ODA team are two crossover athletes who are making it their goal to push for a USA 7s National Team opportunity.
Former BYU and NFL veteran Vic So’oto is making his first foray into rugby alongside fellow BYU alum Scott Lefrandt, who showed well at the Rugby Utah Talent Combine last month.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” So’oto said when asked why he was making an effort to crossover to rugby, “I’ve played at the highest level of football, but its something special to try to make an Olympic team. I’m very excited about this opportunity.”
The Rugby Utah ODA team’s first competitive tournament will be at the USA Rugby feature trial tournament of the Elite City 7s, held in Philadelphia, PA August 29-30, which pits the other top Academy and city-based elite rugby 7s teams in national team trials of sorts with USA Rugby coaches and staff on hand to identify prospective talent.
The 21 Rugby Utah ODA players will begin training in earnest in August with the select 12 traveling to the Elite City 7s in hopes of bringing home their first championship in lead up to more events and opportunities to develop the pathway for the rugby in Utah.
Leading the Rugby Utah ODA team is former USA National Team Member Kimball Kjar who will be supported by former USA 7s National Team standouts Steve St. Pierre and Nu’u Punimatta.
“This inaugural ODA team is something that has been years in the making,” said Rugby Utah ODA coach and director Kimball Kjar, “Our announcement today lays the foundation for the rising generation of outstanding rugby athletes in Utah dreaming of representing their country either Internationally or in the Olympics. We’re very excited to introduce this team of Utah-based rugby talent at such a prestigious tournament and we are proud to be representing the great state of Utah as well.”
The Rugby Utah ODA team is proudly sponsored by the Utah National Guard and works in collaboration with Utah Youth Rugby to broaden skills and develop playing opportunities for elite and recreational players of all ages. Rugby Utah is also partners with ATAVUS, America’s premier rugby training and coaching company.
RUGBY UTAH ODA 7s TEAM ROSTER
|Ah Sue, Robert||6’2″||215||Forward||Park City Haggis|
|Anderson, Josh||6’4”||205||Forward||Brigham Young University|
|Angilau, Naki||5’10”||185||Back||Rugby Utah ODA|
|Blake, George||5’10”||225||Forward||Rugby Utah ODA|
|Christensen, Danny||5’9″||170||Back||University of Utah|
|Gough, Chad||6’0″||220||Forward||University of Utah|
|Griffin, Austin||6’7″||220||Forward||Snow Canyon HS|
|Laei, Tua||5’10”||205||Back||Brigham Young University|
|Lefrandt, Scott||5’10”||185||Back||Rugby Utah ODA|
|Mataele, Raymond||5’10”||196||Back||Park City Haggis|
|Nicholls, Benjamin||5’11”||205||Back||Park City Haggis|
|Nicholls, Joseph||6’0″||178||Back||Brigham Young University|
|Raymond, Casey||5’7’’||148||Back||University of Utah|
|Ruflin, Gabriel||6’4″||205||Forward||University of Utah|
|Schofield, Kevin||6’0″||197||Back||Brigham Young University|
|Slivers, Nakoni||6’1”||205||Forward||University of Utah|
|So’oto, Vitale||6’3″||245||Forward||Rugby Utah ODA|
|Taylor, William||6’5″||215||Forward||Rugby Utah ODA|
|Thomas, Taylor||5’11”||195||Forward||University of Utah|
|Whippy, Josh||6’1”||193||Back||Brigham Young University|
|Whiting, Calvin||6’1″||205||Back||Brigham Young University|
About Rugby Utah:
Rugby Utah 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. With the goal of unifying rugby within the state while also developing commercial interests to build the country’s finest training facilities, promote the most elite rugby events and to develop the rugby lifestyles brands necessary to strengthen America’s rugby culture.