GLENDALE, COLORADO – Over the weekend the North American Rugby Academy hosted two-time defending D1A Rugby National Champions Life University in a fixture in Glendale, CO.

Having won four of the last seven national titles, Life University provided a unique opportunity for the academy athletes to test their physical and mental abilities against an organized and established opposition.

The match proved to be a high-flying encounter, with over 100 points scored between the two sides. Although the academy came out on the wrong end of a 56 – 47 defeat, Head Coach Andrew Clark was pleased with his team’s performance and is excited about their progression.

BK: Overall, how did the team perform? What were the positive takeaways?

AC: The main focus was to be competitive and expose players to the next level of rugby. North America’sRugby Academy (NARA) started the game with good intensity & execution early in attack, and importantly in defense. We scored five tries in the 1st half, so that was positive on the back of some good work. Some good open positive attacking rugby was played by both sides. There was a definite improvement in the majority of the squad from Ruggerfest at Aspen. We were tested in the 2nd half by a quality Life University squad that is well coached, has good Rugby IQ and in the end deserved the 56 – 47 win.

BK: Life University is back-to-back defending D1A Rugby National Champions. How did the team prepare for playing against a well-established side?

AC: We were aware of the quality of the Life University programme and the players were briefed about their quality.  Our preparation continued to focus on Core Skills (Catch/Pass, Track & Tackle & Tackle Contest + Position Specific Skills), Unit Skills and their transfer to team performance. New players were introduced to the squad just prior to the game and this was positive for their development. Major League Rugby quality players were also challenged by the Life University side. Life University adjusted their game at halftime, we did not follow our halftime focus areas and succumbed to Life University’s intelligent pressure.

BK: Which players stood out for you?

AC: The Life University No. 9 Ryan Rees was very good along with their No. 2 who was good at set piece and around the field. They had some good contributions by a number of other dynamic players that added to their team performance. NARA’s better performers included: Cory Daniel (Flanker – a former wrestler recruited by World Rugby’s Dan Payne), who had high involvements and impact in attack & defense. Bailey Wilson (No. 8 & Captain), lead by example and continues to challenge himself to perform in attack & defense. Ryan James (Fullback/Wing), who was dynamic making breaks and had great work rate in defense. Pat Lynott added value and experience to the pack and also covered hooker.

BK: What’s next for the team over the coming weeks?

AC: Our next preparation has commenced towards an away game in San Francisco v St Mary’s on 16 November. St Mary’s is another quality university programme. We will continue to focus on game sense and Rugby IQ, Strength & Conditioning and its transfer to field, execution of core skills with increased intensity, plus unit and team play. We have been fortunate to have high level MLR & international players and coaches such as Pete Borlase (New Zealand Crusaders & MLR), Paul Emerick V (USA Eagles & MLR), Mike Tolkin (former USA Eagles Coach & MLR) and Aaron Carpenter (Canada all-time cap leader & MLR) to progress these players on & off the field.  We want to develop players of the future for the USA & Canada who can progress to perform in high performance rugby.

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