Defiance Rugby Club steps up |

Defiance Rugby Club steps up

Dale Strode photo.Jon Zalinski carries the ball during a Defiance rugby training session this week.

Defiance rugby is movin’ up.

The Glenwood Springs-based Defiance Rugby Club is training now in anticipation of its ninth season of club rugby.

But the Defiance ruggers have more than a summer season ahead.

This year the Defiance Rugby Club will move up to join USA Rugby as a Division II rugby club. In addition to the summer schedule of matches against the traditional resort teams and Front Range clubs, Defiance also will play a full 10-game USA Rugby regional schedule next fall.

As a Division II team, Defiance will enter the USA Rugby system with an opportunity to advance in regional and even national playoffs.

The step is a big one, for a rugby club in its relative infancy, according to Defiance founding player Tim Swanson.

“I didn’t think it would come so fast,” Swanson said of the Defiance move up to Division II status.

“But I’m glad it’s here. We’re really looking forward to it,” said Swanson, a perennial anchor of the Defiance forward pack. Swanson also doubles as the club president.

“The (rugby) union was very excited that someone else from the Western Slope would come in,” added Jon Zalinski, another veteran Defiance player.

He said that the affiliation with Division II rugby will enhance the local club with the 10 additional matches against other D-II clubs in the region.

Defiance, in the fall season that will begin in mid-August, will play Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Cheyenne (Wyo.) and a Denver-area club in a home-and-home USA Rugby schedule.

“It’s good for us. We could be in good shape, good playing shape, for the fall,” Zalinski said. He added that the regular summer schedule will help prepare the Defiance team for the Division II matches.

“And it could help our numbers,” Zalinski said of the additional matches, which are likely to draw more players from the area.

The move to USA Rugby Division II also will increase Defiance’s exposure to players and teams worldwide.

The affiliation for rugby clubs often leads to future matches against touring sides from rugby nations like New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, Canada and South Africa.

To get ready for the inaugural Division II rugby schedule, Defiance will kick off the summer schedule with an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, April 27.

The scrimmage is set for Saturday afternoon on the playing field at Glenwood Park.

The first regular game is scheduled for May 18 in Fort Collins.

Then Defiance will play at Colorado Springs on June 1.

The first home match of the season will be June 15 against Vail.

And the traditional Strawberry Days rugby showdown this year will feature the visiting Park City side from Utah on June 22.

Other home games include Breckenridge and the Aspen B side.

The Defiance club also will participate in the annual Ski Town Classic, set this summer in Aspen on July 27-28.

Veteran Defiance player Brian McNamara has been named as the team’s head coach for the summer season.

McNamara, another longtime Defiance player, is rehabilitating a knee injury. He will lead the team while he continues to prepare for his return to the field.

But for now, McNamara is “Coach McNamara.”

And he’s excited about preparing the team for the historic season.

“What I hope to get out of them is heart,” McNamara said.

“I just played hard all the time and that was my philosophy,” he said, hoping to transmit that drive into the players.

A classic overachiever on the rugby field, McNamara worked his way up through the rugby ranks.

Two years ago, when the Division I national champion Gentlemen of Aspen club needed forward pack players for the annual Ruggerfest tournament, the Gentlemen called McNamara.

He answered the call and helped the Aspen team to another Ruggerfest championship, all the while gaining experience playing with and against top rugby players from all over the nation (and the world).

“I wants us to play hard; that’s what I’ll bring,” McNamara added, extending an invitation to anyone interested in joining the team and learning the game.

Defiance trains on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. at Glenwood Park.

More players are always welcome, McNamara added, particularly as the club heads toward its new future in USA Rugby and then a 10th anniversary season in 2003.

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