The UNB Ironmen rugby team has a positive attitude early in their season after their 36-5 A -side victory against Mount Allison in their first university conference game of the season.
“We got off to a sluggish start, but we came out on top in the end,” said coach Paul Wilson.
The B-side was not so successful, losing 34-7 against the Fredericton Loyalists in their first match of the season.
“The B-side has got a tough assignment this year, playing against some of the New Brunswick men’s teams in the N.B. Union, “ said Wilson.
Different from the A-side, which plays in the university league, the B-side plays against men’s teams that are not associated with academic institutions.
“It’s really a step up for them,” says Wilson.
Club captain Sunny Xue commented “The B-team really stood their own. They were playing against full grown men, and some of our guys are coming right from high school.”
“These guys were twice the height, twice the weight and twice the age,” when talking about the B-side’s match up.
Looking ahead, the team intends to develop their younger and newer players—and they have a tried and true strategy on how to do it.
“Senior players really help, encouraging the younger guys,” Wilson said.
“This year we’re making some changes in the way that we actually run a session.”
The team plans on balancing the needs of the 40-50 players that are usually on their squad by consistently changing their matchups in practice, running varying drills and using the older members’ experience to help newer players.
“Keeps them fresh, keeps them moving and keeps them engaged,” said Wilson.
When talking about their biggest challenge for the year, both Wilson and Xue had different thoughts.
“We have gaps in our schedule,” said Wilson.
According to the coach, this makes it very difficult to stay consistent with game strategy, upkeep and engaging players for the long breaks between competition. To combat this, Wilson plans to put some more training sessions in on the days that [they] don’t have games.
Xue believes that the team’s previous successes put them in a difficult position.
“Coming off of [the] three maritime championships we’ve won, we’ve not only put ourselves in a very vulnerable position because everyone is looking at us—but we also lack the depth,” he said.
“We have a lot of new up-and-comers that are very athletic, but they lack the game experience.
“It’s a matter of developing them in a very short amount of time so that if we have some injuries, we can rely on them.”
In order to do this, they plan on “implementing a day by day, week by week, macro plan so that we can win the championships,” according to Xue.
As for goals, the sentiment is similar across the team.
“Obviously the big goal is to win,” said second year Dalton Killorn, a new player.
“But it’s really just to help everybody improve. Always get better.”
As a club team, the Ironmen also have non-athletic matters to tend to.
“As a club—not a varsity team—we have administrative burdens that we need to take care of,” said Xue.
As captain, Xue wants to make sure that everyone is a part of this process.
“These players not only need to feel like they are bettering themselves rugby-wise, but they need to be feeling like they are contributing to the growth of a storied club with a winning tradition.”
On the B-side, the Ironmen will play their home opener on Sunday, Sept. 17 against UNBSJ. The A-side will travel to PEI on Saturday, Sept. 23 for a match against UPEI; then, the A-side’s home opener will be a battle for the hill against STU on Wednesday, Oct. 4.