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After being awarded the 2017 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Men's Club 7s National Championship trophy, the coaches of Atavus Rugby and the Rugby Utah Selects, Emilie Bydwell and Ben Nichols, spoke with Rugby Today’s Alexander Diegel.
Rugby Today: What about your team was the main reason for winning the National Championship?
Emilie Bydwell, Director of Atavus Rugby: Ultimately, it was preparation. We recognized last year that Club 7s isn’t what it used to be. You can’t just train once before a competition and expect to be successful. The girls began preparing through our academy as early as October. The commitment and preparation they put into it is why they are successful.
RT: Megan Sanders was the MVP of the tournament. What other players helped Atavus to emerge victorious on Sunday?
EB: Jennine Duncan, who is only been playing for nine months was a luxury. We were able to use her in the forwards on the edge and on the wing scoring some really critical tries for us. Anne Peterson, she’s been capped with the 15s. At the halfback and flyhalf positions, she has been able give the width in our attack that we want to play with. She makes some really great decisions with the ball in her hand. We have our rookies in Chelsey [Birgisdóttir], Mac [Garrett], Averi [Kitsch]: all people in the forwards that are grinders that put themselves in positions to make tackles and turn the ball over.
RT: What did the National Championship boil down to for your club?
EB: For the girls, it ultimately came down to committing to preparing. They train like professionals. We asked them to do a hard road map to this. They did it, they took it on, and they deserve all the success for this. Often times, preparation doesn’t equal success and that’s always a bummer and a shame, but the preparation and the pressure the whole club put on each other all the way through put them in position to handle pressure in big games like the semifinals and finals.
RT: How does it feel to be National Champions again?
Ben Nichols, head coach of the Rugby Utah Selects: It’s an emotional moment. It’s been a big buildup, we’ve had to really work hard and we’re so proud. As we broke the line at the 22, I was just in tears. That’s this team. They are good friends on and off the field and you can’t coach that. There’s heart, not giving up, and fighting until the end. Obviously in my role, I couldn’t be more proud of them.
RT: What about your team earned Rugby Utah its second National Championship on Sunday?
BN: Honestly, it’s all attitude for us. When we believe in ourselves, play for each other, and are willing to fight until the end, that’s all that matters. The rugby stuff we’ve got down. The skills, the fitness, they work hard on that stuff. Sevens can be cruel and it’s the team that’s turned on at the right time that takes care of it. It’s hard to reset six games in a row, but somehow they pulled it off and that’s what it takes at the end of the day.
RT: Don Pati was the MVP of the tournament. Which players stood out for you that took you over the edge today?
BN: There were definitely a few and they will get a look up top I’m sure. Jared and Josh Whippy were absolutely outstanding this whole weekend. Led from the front moments of magic and they just have a rugby IQ you can’t coach. Obviously, a big contribution from Josh Anderson, Zach Webber, and in that final, Joseph Nicholls was outstanding: his work rate, chasing back. You have to be accurate to win a game like that by one point and that’s what it took.