High school rugby kicking off new era
Rugby, high school rugby, will kick off a new era next week.
A local fledgling high school club rugby team will begin practicing next week with a modest schedule of games planned.
The team will play other high school rugby clubs around Colorado, with a tentative season opener April 13 against Douglas County.
The low-key start to the high school rugby team is in stark contrast to the experienced coaching staff that will lead the team.
Mark Williams of the Gentlemen of Aspen, one of the most decorated figures in national and international rugby, will coach the team along with a half-dozen other veteran Gentlemen of Aspen players.
Williams, while building the Aspen rugby program into a national dynasty, also played for years with the U.S. Eagles, the national rugby team. Williams played all over the world and represented the United States in several World Cup rugby matches.
When he concluded his international playing career with the Eagles, he was the most decorated of veterans – he had played in more international tests than any other player in the history of the U.S. Eagles.
“Quite simply, they can learn from the best,” said Roaring Fork High School’s Tory Jensen, who is helping the cause of prep rugby.
A former (and sometimes current) rugby player, Jensen said the introduction of rugby as a high school club sport will give young players a chance to learn a new game. And it will enhance their football skills in the process, he said.
“There is no way there is anything better (for cross training),” Jensen said.
He said the plan is to introduce the game of rugby to the players on he run.
“It’s open to anyone interested … from anywhere,” Jensen said.
The first rugby practice session is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. Monday at Roaring Fork High School.
Players should come dressed for practice, with footwear appropriate to snowy conditions.
“They’ll make it a fun experience and teach them rugby,” Jensen said of Williams and his coaching colleagues.
“It’s going to be quite a clinic,” Jensen said, adding that nowhere in North America is there a chance for a high school rugby player to learn from the likes of Mark Williams.
“He’s only the best around,” he said of Williams, who was born in Wales but has spent more than 25 years with Aspen and USA rugby.
The high school club team likely will practice three days a week.
And the workouts will be tight and efficient, Jensen said, done by 5:15 p.m.
Williams brings the experience of coaching numerous rugby club teams. He also was the coach of the U.S. national rugby 7s team. Sevens rugby is a derivation of the sport using seven players per side instead of the customary 15.
Williams also has played for many top national and international coaches during his playing career. Several players who tutored under Williams went on to college coaching positions in rugby.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn a game you can play on down the line, after high school,” said Jensen, who actually first moved to the area to refine his rugby game with the Gentlemen of Aspen.
A player in the junior national rugby pool, Jensen played several seasons with the Gentlemen.
He worked into teaching and coaching high school football, elevating the Roaring Fork program to perennial playoff status in recent years.
Some of Jensen’s former standout football players have stepped into rugby.
Chris Scott, an all-stater linebacker and kicker for Roaring Fork, is now a first-team starter for the Arizona State University rugby team in Tempe.
And, Jensen said, his rugby future is “unlimited.”
Any players interested in the high school rugby club can contact Jensen for more information at 384-5774.
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