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It will be a busy couple of weeks for the Play Rugby USA Academy program as the Bowl Series weekend and then the New York 7s bring some serious competitive opportunities.
Play Rugby will be part of a strong contingent of HS 7s teams playing in between Bowl Series college games this weekend at Iona College. Then next week things get possibly even tougher at the New York 7s.
Play Rugby USA Academy entered 6 teams in the New Jersey Fall 7s series - two Boys Varsity teams, two Girls Varsity teams, and two Boys JV teams. The Boys Varsity 1 was champions in four of the five NJ 7s Series tournaments, going 18-1-1 and outscoring teams 29-5 (on average). Their #2 Varsity team took 3rd in the series.
The Girls #1 team finished 2nd, the Girls #4 4th, and the JV teams were 1st or second in every tournament they played in.
In addition, Play Rugby took 1st and 2nd in the Highlander NJ-hosted Boys 7s tournament with the JV team winning the JV bracket.
The program has continued to grow, said Dan Guzzino, Program Development Manager and Head Coach. And four players will be attending the HS All American camp in December in Phoeniz, Ariz. - Elijah Billips, Nathan Salter, Michael Queijo, and Thomas Treussard.
But what's more impressive are the total numbers. Over 60 players have been working within he Play Rugby USA Academy this fall, playing 7s and developing their skills. While the Academy has six girls and six boys on Play Rugby USA’s Community Olympic Development Program that competed at NAI 7’s last spring and will be competing in the Elite Bracket of NY 7s this Thanksgiving, there are also dozens of players pushing for those types of honors.
"We've been pretty fortunate," said Guzzino. "We have so many players and they are coming from good rugby schools like Xavier, Fordham Prep, and Lycee Francais. They've moved on from football and started playing with the academy. They get a ot of coaching, lots of reps, and they're training in an environment where they know we're going to hold them accountable."
Guzzino said Play Rugby has enjoyed a big influx of players this fall. Many will return to their school team for 15s, while Play Rugby Academy will run their own 15s HS-level team in the Rugby NY league. It's a year-round program, but not all players will stay year-round. Once the spring 15s season is done, Play Rugby participates in some all-star competitions, and won th Empire GU tournament this past summer.
"We have a core group play with the academy year-round, and as well as the HS All American invitees, we have all-state players," said Guzzino. Eleven of the 12 Varsity 1 Play Rugby players were New York state all-stars.
"It's been great. We get 50 or more at every practice," said Guzzino. "It's a lot to manage but definitely enjoyable."
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