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USA Academy Campers Learning the Professional Rugby Life

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USA Academy Campers Learning the Professional Rugby Life

Left to right, Fred Apulu, John LeFevre, Zachary Bastres, and Shemar Lewis. Photo Alex Goff.

Top U23 players have been spending some weeks in a USA Academy residency camp in Glendale, Colo. as part of USA Rugby's partnership with the city that gives USA Rugby consistent access to the Infinity Park facilities.

Under the watchful eye of Men’s HP Pathways Manager Brendan Keane and a slew of coaches, the players are getting a taste of what life as a professional rugby player is like.

Most of these players excelled in high school and college, but many of them were a little under the radar because they were in an out-of-the-way state (Hawaii) or a lower-division college program. 

This camp brings the players together—as many as 80 U23 and U18 players at some point this summer—to train, learn, and grow.

“We training in the morning when it isn’t so hot,” explained Keane. “Then they have time in the afternoon for school or work.”

Then it’s film and meetings in the evening. The players stay in housing near Infinity Park and the Glendale complex, with their living expenses subsidized by a World Rugby High Performance Development grant.

“The guys have a really good attitude and there are players who have the talent to play in the MLR and, hopefully, the Eagles—that’s the whole idea,” said Keane.

“Everything’s in place for us, like for our lifts, for our drills; everything’s professionalized,” said Shemar Lewis, who played for the Maryland Exiles U19s and then went on to Mount St. Mary’s.”

“It’s an almost daily training environment,” said John Lefevre, who played at West End in high school and then Old Dominion. “We train every day 7am to 1:30pm and then there are things we have to do in the evening too.” 

“It’s a change for us,” added Lewis, “but I wouldn’t call it difficult because we’re all here working hard.”

All that hard work is supposed to make them better rugby players and better teammates. Zachary Bastres, who played his high school rugby at Boulder HS and then went on to be a standout at Northern Colorado, said it’s almost a guarantee.

“The people we’re all playing with are some of the best U23 in the country, so any time you play in that environment you’re going to have to get better,” he said.

The ultimate goal for these guys?

“The USA team,” said Fred Apulu, who played for Kahuku HS in Hawaii. “That’s always the goal.”

The players are also working on their life skills, living in the apartments, cooking their own meals, and they have been getting help learning to cook more healthy, more athlete-friendly meals. Lefevre already has that figured out.

“You can’t go wrong with chicken,” he said.

This is a little bit of a newer approach for USA Rugby. It’s not a camp to name a Collegiate All American side, and it’s not an assembly with a high-profile game or tour at the end (as much as fans enjoy that). It’s an introduction to the assembly grind. There are games to be played, but they are for coaching purposes. What the players are learning, in the end, is how to train and live like a high-level rugby player, how to cook chicken and pasta three different ways, and what they need to do in order to measure up.

The is the list of players and coaches who kicked off the Pathways summer in July. Out of this group one, Tavite Lopeti, has already made it into the USA team. Several are U18 players, but the residency camp in September was for U23s.

Samuel Adamson Back Row Utah
Zion Ah You Hooker Hawaii
Fred Apulu Back Row Hawaii
Mason Barker Center Utah
Zachary Bastres Center Utah
Chase Bates Lock Washington
Deke Behnam Halfback California
Daniel Bray Back Row California
Cyrille Cama Back Row California
Javon Camp-Villalovos Lock California
Marco Caramanico Hooker New York
Isaiah Caver Back Row Utah
Owen Clarke Lock Connecticut
Connor Devos Prop Texas
Thomas Dixon Back Row Texas
Declan Dolan Prop Maryland
Lincoln Draper Back Row Utah
George Engels Lock Connecticut
Tevita Faleta Halfback/Wing Hawaii
Talin Finau Prop Utah
Maika Finau Prop Hawaii
Brian Flamenco Prop Virginia
Jarad Fonoti Center Hawaii
Cole Frank Lock South Carolina
Cameron Garlick Wing California
Porter Goodrum Flyhalf North Carolina
Asher Hannon Flyhalf California
Tommy Hannon Flyhalf Indiana
Alec Hardrict Wing Indiana
Sione Haungatau Center Utah
Kieran Hunkin Center Washington
Damon James Hooker Maryland
Kingston Jones Center Hawaii
Brandon Karnes Prop Texas
Mosese Kauvaka Center/Flyhalf Utah
Karl Keane Halfback/Flyhalf Washington
Kahanu Koi Halfback/Flyhalf California
Seti Latu Flyhalf/Fullback California
Malaki Latu Back Row/Lock Hawaii
Darius Law Center North Carolina
John LeFevre Halfback/Fullback Virginia
Shemar Lewis Back Row Maryland
Sione Lolohea Lock Hawaii
Mikaele Lomano Center California
Alex Lopeti Prop California
Tavite Lopeti Center California
Scholar Maat-Hotep Wing California
Charles Mendenhall Center Texas
Atticus Mikles Wing California
Juan Molinari Flyhalf Maryland
Ethan Moxley Halfback/Wing California
Osi Nauer Center Missouri
Jeremiah Noaese Back Row Washington
John O’Toole Prop Maryland
Justin Oles Hooker Nevada
Tevita Otuvaka Back Row Hawaii
Elijah Palmer Center Arizona
Maake Panuve Prop Hawaii
Penisoni Panuve Hooker Hawaii
Lucas Pattinson Back Row California
Tautua Pauga Center/Wing Arizona
Blake Powell Wing Texas
Trevion Reed Prop North Carolina
Nate Roeback Flanker North Carolina
Rand Santos Center/Fullback Philippines
Irae Savaiinaea Halfback Washington
David-John Selby Flyhalf Texas
Peter Sio Halfback California
Malaetasi Sofa Back Row Washington
Riordan Sweet Back Row Florida
Caden Syddall Hooker Utah
Tavius Sykora-Matthess Lock Iowa
Jalen Tatum Wing Georgia
Halleluiah Tiauli Hooker Washington
Sake Tukuafu Center Utah
Tuia Tupuola Back Row Hawaii
Colin Turner Back Row California
Alexander Turse Wing Maryland
Petelo Vatuvei Center/Fullback California
Tiai Vavao Center Washington
Kingston Vivao Back Row California
Isaac Weaver Prop Louisiana
Brendan Weaver Prop Louisiana
Maxime Wilson Lock Texas
Mikaea Wynyard Lock California

Men’s U18 7s Head Coach | David Fee
Men’s U20s Head Coach | Kyle Sumsion
Men’s U23 Head Coach | Todd Thornley 
Men’s U23 Assistant Coach | Dominic Wareing
Men’s U18 Head Coach & HP Pathways Manager | Brendan Keane 
Director of Men’s Pathways Coaching | Mike Tolkin 
Operations and Logistics | Kieran Browner
Athletic Trainer | Janie Kluempers
Athletic Trainer | Anna Unnasch
Strength and Conditioning | Albert Sasu