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Life University calls these games “automatics.”
Every time the Life undergraduate team plays a team automatically invited to the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championships (www.usasevenscrc.com), Director of Rugby Dan Payne reminds the players that Life had to play their way in, and how they need to show that to their opponents.
This weekend, the “Automatic” is Notre Dame. At 1-6, Notre Dame has struggled to get wins, but Head Coach Sean O’Leary is very happy with his team.
“We graduated 17 seniors out of 23, so this is a very young team,” he said. “We welcome the challenge. Any time we play top programs such as Life or Arkansas State, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to test ourselves and see where we need to be. The players get it, and they embrace it, and they want to challenge themselves. I am very proud of their attitude.”
Payne said he is pleased with how his squad has taken the challenges that face them well, also. Payne wants to see good rugby no matter the opponents, and after beating Oklahoma 137-0 a couple of weeks ago, it’s clear that if those opponents aren’t prepared, they can get sliced up.
Captain Colton Cariaga said that kind of game doesn’t help them get better unless you are very disciplined.
“You still have to focus on the little details in a game like that,” said Cariaga. “There are still little mistakes we made that we can point out in the film session.”
Life will likely take this game, but both squads will also be sizing each other up for a potential game on NBC at the CRC.
“My kids love playing the top dogs, and with the 7s coming up, they love it even more,” said O’Leary, who is bringing in former USA 7s star David Fee as the Notre Dame 7s coach. “We have some good young talent and we’ve been able to get some players from other sports.”
Senior Sean Oxley is one. A big, strong football player, Oxley is still learning about rugby, but scored his first try last week against Oklahoma.
Life has their own former Eagle coaching 7s, in Tui Osborne.
“I love coaching these kids,” said Osborne. “This is a great place to develop as a coach, and the guys just get to work.”
It’s an automatic weekend, after all.
“Our kids know what that means,” said Payne.