Marshall Rugby emphasizing fundamentals in new season

In the midst of the Marshall University football pandemonium, it is easy for other sports to get lost in the fold.

The Division II Marshall rugby team is a perfect example.

This group of college students plays for no official prize and hopes to perform well enough for a chance to one day compete for their country.

During the 2014 fall season, Marshall had some explosive players in USA national tea hopeful and senior Cameron Thompson, veteran Darrian Smith and speedy, game-altering sophomore Jarrod Diggs. However, each player is no longer with the team.

The Herd finished last season with a 3-2-1 record, going 0-1-1 against rival Xavier University.

What kept last year’s team from attaining ultimate success? A lack of cohesiveness combined with a mix of egos.

“If somebody can perform the fundamentals well, the details and the small things, then the big things become easy.””

— Justin Apgar

With the loss of the aforementioned players, Marshall will have to cope with a loss of athleticism, as well.

However, last year’s athletes had trouble keeping ego off the field, as each player would try to make a big play independently rather than play within the fluidity that rugby demands.

“We have really gotten rid of some of the bad attitudes and the egos that came with it,” Justin Apgar, the team’s head coach, said. “A lot of the egos that went along with those big, strong guys hurt the team as much as it helped it.”

This year’s team brings back some familiar and vitally important faces, including Corey Sowards and Jake Harter.

However, the rest of the edges are rough.

With every new season and a slew of able-bodied but inexperienced athletes, where does a rugby coach begin to look for success with that lack of five to six agile players?

Apgar says fundamentals are the building blocks to those big plays that came so easily last year.

“It all comes down to fundamentals,” Apgar said. “If somebody can perform the fundamentals well, the details and the small things, then the big things become easy. The attention to detail and being very decisive are very important. You have confidence and you are more decisive when you’re aware of what to do and when you have muscle memory. Then, when all of those little things fall into place, you’ll be able to execute those things that you weren’t able to. We have to make sure that they perform the techniques the right way.“

This season, it is safe to say the Herd will alter its game plan.

“The last two years, we had a very big and very physical team,” Apgar said. “Very, very athletic. But, there wasn’t very much good rugby. It was just athleticism, very explosive athleticism, but lots of mistakes that were made up for because of it. This year, we are going to be a little bit scrappier. We’re not going to be as big and strong, but we’re definitely going to be fitter than the other team and we’re going to know the fundamentals a lot better. We have to perform everything together.”

That is the whole idea of rugby: playing together. There is no secondary option, even in defeat.

“This is going to be a team of angry, little monsters that are going to be moving the ball together,” Apgar said. “Whether we’re right or we’re wrong, we’re going to be doing it together, and we’re going to be maintaining possession and coming out ahead.”

Apgar and his team will take their efforts to the field for the first time this season, hosting Eastern Kentucky University at 1 p.m. Saturday on the St. Mary’s Memorial field on 29th street in Huntington.

Scott Bolger can be contacted at [email protected]