Gents open at home Saturday against Philly | AspenTimes.com

Gents open at home Saturday against Philly

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It’s not exactly home, but it’s close enough.

On Saturday in Carbondale, the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club hosts its 2002 USA Rugby Premier League home opener against Philly-Whitmarsh at Roaring Fork High School.

The 3 p.m. Gents vs. Philly-Whitmarsh match serves as the main event in a full day of rugby on the Roaring Fork High practice football field. At noon, the Gents B-side kicks off with Air Force Academy, followed by a 1:30 p.m. game pitting the Roaring Fork High rugby team against Douglas County.

“It’s going to be a great weekend,” said Gents coach Brian Going. “We’ve just got our fingers and toes crossed that it doesn’t snow.

“We’re pretty keen to play in front of the hometown fans and to impress. I don’t need to try very hard to motivate these guys at the moment.”

The defending five-time USA Rugby Premier League national champion Gents opened their Premier League schedule last Saturday in Marietta, Ga., with a 47-10 rout of perennial powerhouse Life College.

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Philly-Whitmarsh, meanwhile, topped Boston last weekend 31-22 for its first win in three Premier League games this season.

“All I know is last week they pummeled Boston and they were pretty pleased about that,” Going said. “But what I focus on is our strengths – the way we want to play and to dominate from the get-go.”

Aspen escaped last Saturday’s game at Life College with no notable injuries, and aside from a few players who are unavailable for other reasons, Going will have the full complement of the roster to draw from.

Going indicated that his three loose forwards – flankers Sean McGuire and Dougald Gilles and eight-man Jason Walker – will be at the epicenter of the action Saturday.

“In the loose forward department we’re really strong,” he said. “I’m confident that Sean’s going to give us a huge game, and Jason’s an animal.”

Known for a wide-open style that relies on the speed and talent of its backs, Aspen shifted to a more physical approach against Life last weekend, banging its way to victory with its forward pack in the rucks and mauls. Going said either approach – attacking the wide side of the field with the backs or powering straight ahead with the forwards – will be available Saturday against Philly-Whitmarsh.

“What I have is two game plans. For example, if we get out there and find their forwards are bigger and heavier than us, then we’ll change the game plan. [Thursday] night at training we’ll practice both options, and everyone will know what’s going on Saturday,” he said.

“If [Philly-Whitmarsh] keys on our forwards, if they draw their defense in close, then once we settle we move the board wide. And we’ve got Brian Hightower out there and he’ll be smokin’. He better anyway.”

Hightower, a former U.S. national team player, will be making his Gents return following a couple of years on the sidelines with injuries.

“The hardest job I have now is keeping them from being overconfident after last week’s victory,” Going said. “The motivation will be there when the whistle blows.”

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