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Asbun started at openside flanker Tuesday as Oxford defeated the Ealing Trailfinders 19-12. Having started the season playing some hooker, Asbun has pushed his way into the starting lineup at #7, and could be on his way to joining an impressive list of Americans who have earned a Blue for Oxford.
“I'm really enjoying myself out here and trying to soak it all in,” Asbun RUGBYMag.com. “Initially they liked the idea of me playing in the front row because there is a lot of competition in the back row, and we have a lot of height there as well. I played hooker and also got the opportunity to play in the back row. I’ve played the last [few] games and started at 6 and 7, but i am just trying to play wherever gets me on the field.”
Asbun got some exposure at hooker at Cal, where Assistant Coach Tom Billups drilled him in the finer points of the position, just in case he was needed.
“I am really open to playing anywhere really, but I know the back row best and I really enjoy it,” said the De La Salle HS grad. “I think if I were to play in the front row I would try to be a 4th back-rower on the field, aside from at set pieces. “
Playing for a top university side in England is different from playing college rugby in the USA. For one thing, graduate students can play, and it’s not uncommon to see a well-known international suit up for a university.
Asbun says the level of play is high, but it’s also difficult to compare with the collegiate level in the USA.
“The championships I’ve played in against BYU are always such emotional and physical games,” he said. “The level here is very good. A lot better competition week in and out and we have some good experience in the players and coaching staff. But we are still building to get to where we think the team can be, which is exciting.”
Where they can be, of course, is the 190th Varsity Match, December 8 at Twickenham. Asbun hopes to make the lineup, and thus earn his Blue, but knows it will be hard.
“It is a really competitive squad with some accomplished players, and all I can do is try to improve each week. I have been able to find some physicality which is key to me playing my game, but that doesn’t matter if I cannot produce each week leading up to the varsity match.”
Reports are that Asbun has impressed observers with his work rate, and that’s no surprise as the All American has always had that.
Also playing at Oxford, and, like Asbun, studying at Kellogg College, is former Cal lock Jason law. Law has not had the same playing time as Asbun but was on the subs bench against Ealing.
Both are hoping to join an impressive list of Americans who have earned
Blues: Pete Dawkins, Don James (West Point), Gary Hein (Cal), Ray Lehner
(Cal), Kurt Shuman (Penn State), Will Johnson (Harvard) and Adam Russell
(Duke) all played in the Varsity Match for Oxford, while former Eagle Doug
Rowe earned a Blue for Cambridge in 2009.
Other players have played rugby at Oxford, but didn’t get the Blue due to injury or simply not being picked. They include Matt Sherman (Cal), Scott Hugo (UCLA) and Ross Biestman (Cal).