Rugby gets lessons from a pro

Coach of the Australia Brumbies comes to Wayne to run a four-day camp

Courtney Upah, Staff Writer

Nick Leah, the coach of the best Australian rugby professional team the Brumbies, came to Wayne recently to lead a camp for the WSC rugby team.

Leah has been coming to the U.S. for a while, often in three week increments, to coach clinics and scout. For over 11 years, he has gone to Arizona State, and that is how he made a connection to WSC.

Leah tries to keep up with American rugby, so he had already heard about WSC winning four national championships.

“I took a class at Arizona State 11 years ago and that’s where I met [Leah],” rugby coach Darrin Barner said. “It is a very high level coaching class.”

Leah taught a four-day camp this past week at WSC, running from Monday to Thursday.

During his trip to Wayne, Leah was given a tour around the rugby clubhouse and facilities and was impressed with what the team had at the school.

During the camp, players worked on fine tuning scrums, when players pack closely together with their heads down and attempt to gain possession of the ball, as well as catching the ball after being lifted 14 feet off the ground.

WSC was also taught offense backline decision making, as well as the Brumbies base offense.

This offense technique is difficult for college students, since it would require a player to get tackled five times. However, if a team can pull it off, the field is left wide open.

“As a team we learned new ideas related to ball and player movement on the field along with passing technique,” rugby player Hannah Meyer said. “The coach was knowledgeable and the camp helped us to develop as players.”

The ruggers also worked with new equipment, wearing GPS vests, a jersey with a GPS in it, used to evaluate the player’s speed and distance covered.

The game of rugby is changing. Not only is it getting more scientific with devices like GPS vests, but professional players are also being paid more, earning close to one million dollars overseas in places like Japan, France and New Zealand.

Now, more than ever, teams from overseas are scouting American rugby players to compete professionally. Leah has scouted one Arizona State student onto a professional contract to play for the Brumbies and plans on coming back to Wayne to scout during the 80 Team Tournament in the fall.

Leah heard about Wayne hosting the 80 Team Tournament this spring, and he might come back to watch.

“This was a learning experience not only for the students but also for myself,” Barner said. [Leah] even gave me a test on decision making and this will overall improve strategy and future team plans.”

Rugby practice will begin in two weeks, with practice being held twice a week.

The first game of the season for men and women will be Feb. 27 at South Dakota State in their new indoor football field.

If anyone is interested in joining the rugby team please contact the coach, Darrin Barner, by either emailing [email protected] or calling (402) 516-0100.