By Keely McConomy Contributing Writer
Recently, UMF Men’s Rugby team traveled to England to improve their skills for the upcoming spring season, and experience the sport to its full potential.
The team landed in Manchester, England, and traveled through the expansive sheep-filled fields during the four hour drive to Hexham, England. The 18 members of the UMF team and ten alumni, including coach Tony Solis, stayed in bunk houses that were crammed and cozy, making it so all the players could do was eat, sleep and breathe rugby.
The men played four games in their travels that put their skills to the test. They competed against teams that consisted of members who have been “playing since they were five years old,” said Liam Brinkler, a second year rugby player for UMF.
Playing the English teams taught the UMF men much more about rugby. Through the games against high caliber teams, Brinkler and the UMF squad were able to show their skills and better themselves.
“It’s such a better atmosphere to learn and grow, the other guys would give us advice off the field,” Brinkler said. “On the field you’re enemies, but off the field you’re friends.”
The games were not the only way they were able to advance their rugby skills. The team had the opportunity to work with former professional rugby player from England National Team Chris Jones. Working with Jones resonated with the men.
“He’s really smart,” said David Kimmel, also a second year rugby player.
The team was able to learn lots techniques from Jones. “We learned a lot about defensive formations, which is something that we don’t really focus on in the States. He had knowledge that people here seem to overlook,” said Kimmel.
For current coach and former rugby player Tony Solis, this trip was not only about developing skills related to the sport, it was about fully experiencing the true traditions of rugby. Solis had been on the trip when he was a player, so he was privy to all the knowledge and culture that his men would benefit from.
“Our guys got to see how various traditions get handed down, and how different club rugby in the UK is than University rugby,” said Solis in an email interview. “On top of it all for me was solidifying old relationships as well as creating new relationships with guys halfway across the world that share the commonality of rugby,” Solis said.
Solis went on to say, “I hope that we continue as a community of Maine rugby to develop relationships with other squads in a similar vein: Fierce competitors on the field, and members of the brotherhood of rugby off it.”
Both Kimmel and Brinkler are excited about “Beast of the East,” a collegiate rugby tournament, hoping to show off their improved individual and team skills. In a recent schrimidge against Bates College, Kimmel saw the improvement first hand. “Once we started focusing on what Chris [Jones] had said I think some of us, who were on the tour, figured it out and it clicked a little bit more,” siad Kimmel.
Brinkler has his heart set on getting the gold at “Beast of the East.” “We lost in the plate championship last year. But I’m very confident, we had a very good team and we’ve even added a couple players,” said Brinkler.
Beast of the East will be held in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on April 14 and 15.