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High hopes for BYU rugby

Entering the 2004-05 season, the BYU men's rugby squad has a couple juicy bits of knowledge that they feel will help their chances at a national championship.

The Cougars enter this year's season with a better understanding of how they stack up against the nation after reaching the quarterfinals of the 2004 USA Rugby tournament, and most importantly, a full year to prepare for the tournament.

Up until last April, the BYU rugby team had been absent from postseason play because the championship game was held on Sunday, an obstacle for the Cougars because of their affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But after 20 years of appeals, tournament officials moved the game to a Saturday, and BYU returned to postseason play.

"It showed us how to prepare for it properly, and what we need to be successful in a playoff environment, which is very different from our schedule," Akenhead said of last year's tournament. "It makes it difficult when we get in the playoffs and in tough game after tough game. It gave us a good insight on where we really need to be."

Through its first four games this season, BYU has yet to lose, averaging 67 points per game and a 115-3 win Oct. 9 against Utah State. Although the Cougars have only faced relatively easy teams, BYU has only allowed one team to score more than 10 points (Utah, 13).

Fullback Paul Heapy said because of the lack of competition the Cougars have faced, the team is more focused on execution than margin of victory.

"I think the biggest thing we learned (in the playoffs) is we can't rely on our individual talents," he said. "Even though our better players can make plays, we want to play the game in such a way that the plays would come off when we're playing a better team."

Akenhead said he wants his team to use the fall becoming more mentally strong.

"What we've tried to do . . . is be disciplined enough to stick to a game plan through the whole game instead of wandering and eventually playing 'reactive rugby,"' he said.

BYU should get a better measure of its team's improvements later this month when the host five other schools in the BYU Invitational Oct. 22-23, which includes a Texas A&M squad the Cougars defeated last year in the postseason.