Denver rugby coach helps local players relearn the basics

Brian Meinhart of the Grand Junction Men’s Rugby Club carries the ball as he is tackled by Colby Knepp of the Mesa State College rugby team during a defensive drill at Saturday’s rugby skills clinic at Canyon View Park.

Saturday morning at Canyon View Park, the Denver Barbarians put on a skills clinic for roughly 15-20 Grand Junction rugby players.

The local players were all associated with either the Grand Junction Rugby Club or the rugby club at Mesa State College.

“This really helps us,” Grand Junction Rugby Club President Ron Hall said. “After a while you quit thinking about the little things and keep doing the same coaching you have done every year. Someone like this comes in and help us with so many things that can help our guys be better players.”

Dave Hodges, the director of rugby and head coach for the Barbarians, taught the clinic.

Hodges is in his third year with the Barbarians but was an All-American at Occidental College, played on the U.S. National team and spent nine years playing professionally in Wales.

Even with his extensive rugby pedigree, Hodges said he was trying to teach the basics to the local players.

“I try to get them to have the simple parts of the game down because those have a big bearing on the outcome of games,” Hodges said. “We talk about how the little things matter. People want to talk overall strategy but if you don’t have the skills and details to do it, the strategy falls apart.”

Hodges reviewed the proper way to hold the ball, how to sidestep tackles and had the players run drills for about two hours.

“This is how we start in the preseason, we always revisit the little things,” Hodges said.

The Barbarians were in town for an exhibition match with BYU’s rugby team. This is the second year that the rugby Super League team out of Denver and one of the top college teams have met at Grand Junction’s Canyon View Park.

“BYU wants to play the Barbos but it is too long of drive to do it,” Hall said. “This works out better for both teams and the game is so smooth. They do things we have never seen.”

Saturday’s match is one of preseason games the Barbarians have on the schedule as they took on the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club and will conclude with Charlotte Rugby Club next Saturday. Denver’s regular season will begin against the San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club on March 14.

“In these preseason games, we can get a good measure of where we are,” Hodges said. “BYU is a dynamic and fit team that will present a different challenge.”


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