Photo Courtesy Jeff Meigs
Last week, UVU men’s rugby head coach Clint Wilson expressed that every new season brings too much change to the Wolverines Rugby program. Every year the team seems to get a new coach which brings in new styles of play with different types of competition.
Simply put, they have struggled with consistency problems.
Hold that thought, though. This is a coach that just led a team of some nationally ranked players with UVU. This past season the Wolverines had two players, Matt Lefrandt and Filimone Afu named to USA Rugby’s All Division II team.
Don’t stop there. We are talking about a team that stops competition it its tracks and put it in its place. It should also be mentioned that the Wolverines just finished playing in the Rugby National Tournament in May where they dropped to Lindenwood in the semi-finals.
The point that Wilson is making is that that was the past. Utah Valley has always performed well with their rugby program, but he sees the team only getting better.
“He [Clint] got us together and really organized things,” Lefrandt said. “He helped us set some goals as a team and set up principles with how we practice.”
Wilson has been coaching high school club programs for the past six years. In fact, he recently won a high school National Championship with the United Rugby program. But he chose to coach UVU because he saw the potential that this program had.
“I loved coaching high school, but I have been watching UVU for four or five years now,” Wilson said. “The talent and the athletes that are here should have us at the top of the country. That is what attracted me to UVU. I saw the potential and I wanted the guys to play in a program that was going to bring out the best in them.”
According to Lefrandt, the UVU rugby team is one that deserves that kind of program. Like all club sports programs on campus, rugby isn’t funded by the school. All players donate their own money and their own talents to every aspect of the game; on and off the field. Lefrandt invested well over 500 dollars to the team this season.
The commitment level that UVU’s rugby club demands from the players is shown on the field. Players aren’t required to be there and no one will make them run laps if they’re late.
“Everyone puts their heart and soul in it,” Lefrandt said. “Once games come through then everyone there is your brother. I don’t think I would play at the level I do now if I didn’t have to pay money. We, as a team, did so well because we wanted to make an impact and get ourselves out there and go onto the next level.”
Both Wilson and Lefrandt expressed their emotions about how the Wolverines can play on any level as a Division II program, even playing the higher Division I teams. Not surprising after hearing about their near-perfect record of a season.
This season UVU crushed competitions against Utah State, SUU, Dixie and their rivals of Idaho State. During the playoff in Stanford, UVU saw games against Long Beach State and Santa Rosa, contests Lefrandt described as “beautiful” rugby.
For the Wolverines, the future only looks brighter. They have a coach dedicated to the program with a commitment to stay for multiple seasons. And for the players, Lefrandt expressed the most confidence in the dedication of his teammates.
“You look around and see that your blood, sweat and tears are into this program,” Lefrandt said. “My emotions are at such a higher level than I have ever had in any other sport.”
As the team goes into next season they will continue to fight against the best opponents they can find; or from a budget standpoint, the best teams they can afford. While Wilson and his players are doing everything they can to grow the rugby program and continue to be a nationally recognized team, they hope that the student body will help in doing the same.
The team is dedicated to represent the Wolverines on a national level.
“I feel like it’s the most exciting game to watch and to play,” Lefrandt said. “It is the most contact sport that you are going to get out of UVU. This is a team that is recognized nationwide, but in our own back yard is where it’s lacking. It would be nice to have more home support.”
For a team that has had consistency issues in the past along with scarce funding, the rugby has program has put Utah Valley on the map in the sports world. Now after placing fourth in the nation and with both Lefrandt and Afu being named to the All Division II team this season, the future is as bright as ever.
“We will have growing pains as a new team with our ups and downs,” Wilson said. “But I think eventually we’ll be a well-oiled machine where we have more good days then we do bad.”