Men's rugby squad thirsty for blood
LEAVE ME ALONE, I DON'T WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND. Western's male ruggers don't plan on making any friends on the field this season as they fight for respect and a title.
By John Giusti
The men's rugby team is ready to maul its opponents this season after a disappointing provincial semi-final loss to Queen's last year. With a combination of revenge-seeking veterans and blood-thirsty rookies, the Mustangs should be contenders for the provincial championship.
The Mustangs have gone without a provincial title since 1978 and hope to better last year's 4-2-1 regular season mark.
Last year's off-season was bitter-sweet for the team. With the taste of their semi-final loss still lingering in their mouths, the players attempted to erase the foul taste with a road trip to Ireland. The trip gave them a chance to test their skills against opponents who take the game of rugby as seriously as Canadians take hockey.
For many of the team's younger players, the Ireland tour hastened their journey to maturity and readied them for this year's upcoming contests.
Returning veterans such as Greg Doria, Virgil Strong, Chad Tranter, Brodie McDonnell, Ed Gardner and Jason MacArthur, are expected to lead the Mustangs.
"We have mobile forwards and powerhouse backs who are incredible ball-handlers," Strong said. "We are also quick and creative."
Strong also pointed out that the team is a little short on size, but some physically imposing recruits are coming up in the ranks.
Second-year head coach Gerry Slattery feels the key to winning lies in the ability of the players' to keep their composure and discipline throughout the entire season.
"If the players can maintain their high-intensity all season, including practices, I have no reason to believe that we cannot go all the way," Slattery said. "We are fortunate this year to have great depth not only in our players but in our coaches as well."
The depth of Western's program was shown in last week's 70-0 torpedoing of the U.S. Navy's B-team, by the Mustang B-team. Western's A-team lost by a single point against the Navy's best squad, who are ranked number four in the NCAA.
The graduations of London-native Ryan Graham, as well as veterans Joel Palmer and Dave Potter last year, have contributed to Western's modest third-place preseason provincial ranking.
"Yes we're the underdogs, but we kind of enjoy that," Slattery commented. "We're as ready as we can be."
Fortunately, top prospects like Simon Rogers, who arrives fresh from Canada's under-19 team where he was the tournament's leading scorer, are sure to fill in some of the gaps.
Western's first game is this afternoon against McMaster on the rugby pitch across from J.W. Little Stadium at 4 p.m.