Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Getting ready for NASCs

This past weekend our MARFU U23 pool players met up with the MARFU senior players and the NRU seniors player in Phoenixville, PA, as the last preparation for the 2008 NASCs.

Circumstances have arisen that make this a great opportunity for our territory - for one thing, Pittsburgh is hosting this year, meaning, for the first time in my whole rugby career, I don't have to get on a plane to go to NASCs.

Since our territory is hosting (of course some Pittsburg teams identify with the Midwest, others with MARFU), we got some bonus opportunities.

MARFU Seniors are fielding not one, but two sides this year, in order to fill the vacant 8th seed. In years way past the USA U23s filled that slot - in recent years past it was the Canada U23s, and last year the Minnesota selects. MARFU II (as we refer to this group of players) have been preparing along with MARFU I, so I think it will be a great experience.

On the U23 side, the 8th seed has previously been filled by the USA U19s (now U20s). But, the U20s are touring South Africa this summer, and won't be available for NASCs.
To fill this spot, USA Rugby asked us to help coordinate a territorial development team. Teams can roster up to 28 players at NASCs, but typically not all those players get a chance to compete, and coaches often identify a smaller primary team and several alternates. This year, all those players will get a chance to play together in Tier II and practice together as part of this territorial development team. I'm excited to see SO MANY athlete's get a chance to play this year.

So anyway - last weekend we all circled up in Phoenixville PA. All the programs came out early to do some prep training. For MARFU U23 (and NRU Seniors), this was the final step in the selection process. We went over set pieces and team pattern play during the morning, and after a brief lunch break/rain delay, the matches began.

We didn't get to see much of the MARFU/NRU game, but i know the NRU came out on top despite some strong individual performances and solid scrummaging by MARFU.

The remaining teams played a 40 minute round robin format, with MARFU U23 vs MARFU II, MARFU II vs NRU, and MARFU U23 vs NRU. The MARFU U23 v MARFU II game was very, very competitive (5-5), and both team's were able to identify areas for improvement going into NASCs. I didn't get to see the MARFU II/NRU game (7-5), as we were prepping our second group of players. For the last 40 minute period MARFU U23 played NRU, as both coaches were looking to flesh out their final selections.

MARFU U23 got our asses kicked (7ish tries?), by the NRU, but I must say it was an honor and a privilege to play against some of the more experienced NRU players - our girls definitely have a view of what higher level rugby is about, as well as a sense of how seriously investing time in agility, weight training, and skill development can build you into a world class/world cup level player. Though we were outmatched through experience & age, there were definitely some strong performances by the MARFU U23 players, and we know what we need to work on going into Pittsburgh this year.

If you're interested in the final selections for MARFU U23, visit the team blog at http://marfu-u23s.blogspot.com .

Congrats to everyone and thanks to both MARFU Seniors and NRU for the fantastic competition.