Thursday, April 7, 2016

U-20s Getting Ready For JWRT

The Junior All-Americans will head for Zimbabwe and the Junior World Rugby Trophy later this month. Since qualifying against Canada in dramatic fashion last February the team, led by coach JD Stephenson, has been busy preparing for the tournament. We caught up with Stephenson to see when the team is next assembling and to get answers on a few key questions.

TIAR: You had to go from qualifying for the tournament to now getting ready to play in the tournament in just a couple of months. What has the team been doing to get ready?

JD: The program has been very fortunate to leverage BridgeAthletic to ensure that we are on top of our S&C base. Coach Goulding has been great in organizing access to a team Hudl account that we have used for review and preparation for our pool play matches. We have also been in weekly contact with our players and their respective coaches to continue to build upon our squad rapport and individual player expectations, while not interfering with their club/college program goals.

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TIAR: Are you going to go with most of the players that helped you qualify? Will there be some new faces?

JD: As a coaching staff we want to show loyalty and faith in those players who defeated Canada and the selections will reflect that philosophy.

TIAR: How much do you think winning the qualification match in dramatic fashion helps you ahead of the tournament?

JD: Decision making under pressure and the ability to execute while under fatigue are what separates the good and great sides apart. We will draw from our experiences against Canada and I do believe that it is good motivation to know that we could have just as well not been heading to Harare.

TIAR: You are drawn with Hong Kong, Namibia, and Spain. On paper you should be the favorites to top the pool. Is that the attitude you are taking into the tournament?

JD: Our first opponent is Namibia who is a quality side that has trained together on a consistent basis for the last 6 months, followed by two other great programs that have the depth and talent to beat anyone at the Trophy. Our attitude heading into this Trophy is that we must “Play BIG”. We will do this by having belief in the systems, structures and processes that are in place, and, should we do this it will lead to a successful outcome.

TIAR: When will the team get together before the tournament?

JD: The side is assembling in St. Charles, MO on Sunday April 10th 2016. We are scrimmaging against Lindenwood on Monday & Tuesday and depart to Washington on Wednesday for our flight to Zimbabwe.

TIAR: How important is it for these players to play in this tournament?

JD: Representing your country is something in which as a player is the highest accolade you can receive. I know that these young men are ready and excited for the challenges that await them in Zimbabwe and are eager to show their pride in wearing the USA jersey.

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