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Scholz Finalist - Chad Gough

irish rugby tours

Scholz Finalist - Chad Gough

Tough score against Arizona. Photo courtesy Utah Rugby.

Ask anyone who has seen Chad Gough play and they will say he is multi-skilled.

Playing hooker for the University of Utah, and with the collegiate All Americans, Gough has shown he can run, pass, and play in the open field as well as anyone. It’s something that has been a part of his game since the start.

One of the four Scholz Award finalists as the best men’s college rugby player in the country, Gough got his start as a senior at Snow Canyon HS in St. George, Utah.

“The team had started the year before I played,” Gough explained. “I didn’t play, but I did watch them, and Coach Michael Puriri was pretty influential in getting me to go out and play rugby. I think the game came fairly easily for me. Obviously the first week I had no idea what was going on. But from the first game I got the feel for it, started watching a lot of film, and learned.”

The youngest of six brothers, Gough knew about being competitive and played a lot of sports. So picking up a new game wasn’t hard. He was a big kid in high school and played as a lineman in football. 

“And then in rugby I found out I could run with the ball and show my athleticism, and I really liked that. I felt there was always something more I could do.”

After going on LDS church mission to Philadelphia, Gough entered the University of Utah with the idea that rugby could remain a big part of his life.

“When I met my wife, on our first date, I told her I was going to play rugby in college,” he said. “I was definitely focused on playing.”

That piece of news didn’t faze Aubrey Makanoa Gough any, as the two did get married in 2013, and they have a young child together. Gough said without the support of his wife, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of the things he has accomplished. 

Playing rugby at Utah wasn’t easy. The program went through some problems and had to come back from a suspension. All Gough wanted to do was play, but he also wanted to win.

“My first year we were beaten by Saint Mary’s something like 80-5,” he said. “Then later we were able to beat them. We’ve had a lot of highs and lowers, but it’s all been worth it.”

Gough mentions winning the LVI in 2016 and earning a place at the CRC was a major highlight. Losing last week to San Diego State in the DIA playoffs perhaps one of the tougher moments. Gough takes responsibility.

“As the leader of the team, the captain, I want to make decisions and be a leader, but choosing to take the tap on penalties instead of take the easy three, that was a mistake on my part,” he said. “That was the most painful part. The players look to me to make good decisions, and I know now it was a mistake, and I do feel responsible.”

Did it make any difference that Gough has pushed the tempo and beaten teams by taking those quick taps and surprising defenses?

“We do like to catch teams off-guard,” he acknowledged. “But San Diego State weren’t caught off-guard. They held their ground.”

Overall, Gough is more than just a basic hooker, but the interesting thing is that, especially after he toured with the All Americans, MCAA Head Coach (and former hooker) Gavin Hickie urged him to make sure he does the obvious stuff, too.

“This year my main focus has been on my lineout throw,” said Gough. “Our lineouts are the key. Then we get a penalty, we can kick for touch if we have confidence in our lineout. So getting the lineouts right was a goal and it was definitely something I picked up from Gavin Hickie. He wanted to make sure I do my responsibilities, and as a hooker, that’s scrums and lineouts. Everything else is open play and running your system, and we all have to do that. But scrums and lineouts we what makes a hooker.”

Gough said his experience playing and touring with the All Americans and making new friends in the game was a special one, and he wants that feeling again. The Physical Therapy major said he would love to tour with the All Americans once more, and then there’s the hope of becoming a professional, and an international rugby player.

“I still have a lot I want to do in rugby,” he said.