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Right Choice Puts Rogers on RWC Doorstep

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Right Choice Puts Rogers on RWC Doorstep

When Hope Rogers showed up at her first rugby practice as a sophomore at Chambersburg HS in Pennsylvania, she was a little confused; you see, she had confused rugby and lacrosse, saw a bunch of people chasing a weirdly-shaped ball around with no sticks, and got ready to leave.

It’s a good thing she stayed.

A former baton-twirler, basketball player, and thrower in track & field, Rogers heard that her high school was forming a team, and decided to give it a try, Despite her worry that she’d found the wrong sport, “I soon found out I was at the right place and what rugby really was.”

The powerful prop forward learned a lot from her coach, Steve Wright, and he encouraged her to tried out for the Mid-Atlantic U19 select side her first year. She didn’t make it, but was later called in because coaches Tony DeRemer and Kevin Castner liked her potential.

Meanwhile, she was excelling in track & field, breaking the school record for discus and winning districts in that event, also. She qualified for the state meet in both shot put and discus.

“It was a lot of fun, but I also got a lot of support from [my rugby] coaches and ended up deciding to go to college to play rugby,” Rogers explained. “Penn State was my best option to get the support and grow as a player. Rugby was always super fun for me and felt natural. Pete Steinberg had a chat with me the end of freshman year saying that I had the potential to play internationally if I put in the work to become healthier and fitter.”

The idea of being good enough to represent her country at rugby shocked Rogers. She’d been playing for just a few years, and now they were talking national team. It seemed an unattainable dream.

“I put in the work nonetheless and was blessed with the opportunity last summer to play, and ever since I put on that jersey with my country's logo over my heart, I knew I wanted nothing more than to keep working hard to represent the best that I physically could,” she said.

Through it all Rogers helped lead Penn State to another national title. The powerful, agile prop was also tested at hooker in the recent USA tour of the UK, acquitting herself well in a new position. But learning that new position gives Steinberg, also the USA Head Coach as well as Head Coach at Penn State, the flexibility to field his strongest, most powerful front row.

“[Playing hooker] wasn't a huge adjustment,” said Rogers. “I think the biggest adjustment is in the lineouts. Throwing in is very stressful. It is definitely a skill that needs everyday practice. I really enjoyed it though. You are still a tight five player, but hooking in the scrum isn't quite as tiring as propping. I had a lot more energy in open field to run around. It's like you’re a tight five player in the scrum, but a loose forward in open field - the best of both worlds.”

Being able to play both positions also means Steinberg can have depth elsewhere for his World Cup quad.

Rogers is by far the youngest front-rower on the Eagles team going to France. A position where age is often a huge asset in women’s rugby, four of the six USA props and hookers are 30 or older, with the second-youngest, Sarah Wilson, 29 years old. Rogers is 21. She doesn’t have the experience of battling in hundreds of international scrums the way Jamie Burke has (yet), so she is hard at work trying to catch up.

“I’ve been in the weight room every day, so despite some minor injuries that kept me out from time to time, I have become stronger, fitter, and faster,” Rogers told Goff Rugby Report. “I’ve already seen it play its part on the field. This has allowed me to really focus and improve upon my game and skills.  I have specifically been working on staying low in all points of contact and on scrummaging. It is much more difficult at the international level than collegiate. In college, I can solely rely on my power and strength, but internationally, all the props are powerful, so the technical side comes into play.”

Converted to prop by Steinberg, Rogers said every international assembly or game is a learning experience.

“Since I am such a young player, I look for growth at every event because I am constantly learning and applying what is being taught,” she said. “I think the biggest transition is last year I was just the new kid and there was not an expectation. I just went to learn and have fun. This year, I'm more critical about my play. I'm still learning and having fun, but I'm trying to contribute to the team and perform well.”

So is she happy she made the decision to stay for practice back in Chambersburg? You bet.

“There are so many reasons I love rugby,” Rogers enthused. “The biggest thing is the people you meet. It's definitely family here at Penn State and it's like I have a bunch of big sisters on the USA team. It's nice to know they have my back. We play with and for each other. It's also a stress-reliever.

“My life is super busy and sometimes very stressful, but when it's rugby time my mind is only focused on one thing. It helps me stay focused on the present. There are also many things I learn in rugby that I apply to life that make me a better person overall. God has blessed me with a knack for rugby and before every game I pray and give him thanks. It's a way for me to honor God. Plus it's fun!