Men’s rugby hopes to keep provincial title

Provincial champions two years running. How could the Concordia Men’s Rugby team top that? What is their recipe for success?
This season their first game comes only four days after their first practice. Is that how they do it?
Or how about team manager Clive Gibson’s approach? “I really couldn’t care less what happens in the first four games, it’s all about building towards the right finish.”
What Gibson and head coach Gerry Clayton try to concentrate on is finding what works for the team. With such a short season, and few opportunities to test their team against serious competition, Gibson and Clayton for-go the score, and are more concerned with developing player tactics and how their athletes perform together as a team. “We spend the first half of the season not worrying about results on the field, but working on getting everyone on the same page,” explained Gibson.
And it shows. In recent seasons, Concordia was rarely the top team in the small Quebec division, but somehow come play-off season they out-played the competition. Weird circumstances, that are both blessings and hindrances, have combined to force them into this seasonal tactic.
With only four other teams in their division, ensuring a post-season spot is relatively easy, allowing Concordia’s team to sacrifice the early games. Season standings only determine who gets home-field advantage come the play-offs. However, the last two championships were held on Bishop’s soil, but Concordia still walked away with the trophies.
On the negative side, there’s strong competition for talent between the schools and regional club leagues, whose seasons overlap. Also, Men’s Rugby is not a CIAU sport like Women’s Rugby, which means no national championship, no organized cross-divisional matches, bare-bones funding, and little incentive for players to show up before school starts to practice. “There’s nowhere to go. You do your Quebec thing, then it’s over,” complained Gibson.
Of course, not being a CIAU team also means no eligibility age restriction. This will allow thereturn of leading veterans like Mathieu Garston and captain Marty Boutin, who Gibson described as a seasoned veteran when he first arrived seven years ago. Garston lead the team last year with 37 points and also plays for the Quebec Menace, a Quebec semi-pro team. Returning player Jason Low played for British Columbia’s corresponding semi-pro team.
Gibson expects some key veteran losses from previous seasons to be Rob Imrie, Chris Quinn, Christopher Chapman, Jonathan Webb, Simon Hunt, and Gordan Starck. Also flanker Christopher Cesari should be out the entire season due to a shoulder operation. Gibson says he’s been talking to a lot of potential players that are expected to show up for the first practices, but won’t commit to anything until the players have actually taken the field. However he did mention Jarred Walker, another Quebec Menace member, and John Chisiborch, both of whom come form Quebec’s U-21 team.
As for what he expects from the rest of the division this season, Gibson responded with a chuckle, “I think they’re getting tired of us winning. They’re going to be out to kill us.”
The men’s rugby team kicks off their season on Sunday Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. when Bishop’s visits Loyola field.

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