July 30, 2016
Rugby Utah Launches Men’s Premier Division, Iosepa Shield & Pathway to Elite Provincial Team
Photo: Rugby Utah
Rugby Utah Release: Kimball Kjar, July 29, 2016
Salt Lake City, UT—Rugby Utah announced today the formation of the country’s first state-based men’s rugby competition purposefully built to simultaneously support local club and elite level pathways.
This new competition called the Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division (MPD) will unite new and existing men’s clubs along the Wasatch Front to compete for the new Iosepa Shield, the country’s only provincial-model state championship.
The Rugby Utah MPD begins play August 27th and runs until the end of October with the top players from within the competition being selected for the Rugby Utah Elite Provincial Team (EPT) that will compete in one of the top domestic rugby competitions in the Spring of 2017.
The new MPD model isn’t new says, Rugby Utah Executive Director, Kimball Kjar, but it’s a model he says works for the unique demography and culture of the rugby community in Utah.
“Rugby at the men’s level in Utah is talent-rich but in the past has been widely regarded as organization-poor,” Kjar said, “So rather than using a bigger stick to elicit compliance, the Rugby Utah MPD model allows us to provide opportunities for players, coaches and even the referees that weren’t here before. Opportunities that range from recreational rugby all the way to the highest domestic level possible. And if teams and individuals want to be a part of those opportunities they can jump on board. If they don’t care for those opportunities or if they fall outside the standards Rugby Utah is setting, then they’re welcome to choose a different path.”
The Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division (MPD)
The Rugby Utah MPD is comprised of seven of Utah’s top men’s clubs with recent and decades-old histories.
The seasoned veteran club in the MPD is Park City Haggis, a decades-old club with a long history in Utah’s rugby community. Park City Haggis head coach, and long-time men’s rugby organizer in Utah, Jason Hoke says the new MPD will give the Utah rugby community something its been needing for years now.
“[Park City Haggis] is excited about the opportunities that this competition in Utah will present,” Hoke said, “There has not been a path way for the athletes to compete especially those that do not enter college or those who play at smaller universities. Our hope is that this league will provide those athletes with the chance to be seen and to develop. And being part of a league based In Utah will allow a level of participation that we don’t get with other leagues because of the cost and difficulties of travel.”
Other clubs joining the MPD competition include long-time Utah summer-league stalwart clubs the West Valley Lions and Liberty Rugby Club.
Both clubs are decades old but have thrived predominantly as summer-time clubs playing a series of local friendlies throughout their histories. With notable past USA Eagles like Henry Bloomfield, Salesi Sika and others having played in many of the Utah summer league teams these two clubs are looking to bring their talented players into a longer-term structure that will provide pathways of opportunities for their players and their clubs.
“The West Valley Lions are excited about this new competition,” Hameti Lomu, Lions head coach said, “This is our opportunity to take our talents to the next level.”
A familiar name in the Utah rugby community will also go full circle to its roots with the United Men’s Club resurrecting itself after a decades long hibernation. Locally and nationally the United Rugby Club has a long tradition at the youth and high school levels, but its roots began with the United Men’s Club in the 1980s. Current United Rugby Club head coach Collin Purriri led the former United Men’s Club that included players like current BYU head coach David Smyth and former USA Eagle Mark Ormsby.
“Rugby Utah has been working tirelessly,” said United Men’s Club head coach and former USA Eagle Rob Randell, “Their efforts have been to create and sustain an unbelievable competitive rugby platform for local kids and men to play in, but for also the whole nation to see. This is a great start to many great things.”
Rounding out the MPD competition are three clubs with more recent histories—the Salt Lake Spartans, the Salt Lake Gladiators and the Utah Brothers.
Each of these clubs brings an interest in developing their players and their own club identities in the MPD competition.
“The Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division competition will provide an opportunity and pathway for our entire rugby community to advance to the next level,” said Salt Spartans captain Efiafi Fekitoa, the older brother of All Black Malakai Fekitoa. “Our players are excited to be part the competition. We know it will be a great opportunity for them to advance to the next level, if selected for Men’s Elite Provincial Team.”
The seven founding clubs of the MPD will compete for the Iosepa Shield using a round-robin season format culminating in a post-season tournament through the closing weeks of October.
Rugby Utah Elite Provincial Team (EPT)
Following the conclusion of the MPD season the competition players will be selected and invited to play with the Rugby Utah EPT program and compete in one of the top domestic competitions in America during the Spring of 2017.
The specific competition for the Rugby Utah EPT team will be announced in the coming weeks Kjar went on to say.
“The MPD model is a unique one,” he said, “It brings the best of the Southern Hemisphere provincial model into the developing American landscape that works for our community. But there are a lot of moving parts that we’re working with USA Rugby and others to manage. We’re excited about the options this competition model offers but we have some items to clear with all connected parties before we announce which competition our elite team lands in. Regardless, our EPT players will have top-flight development opportunities no matter where this team ends up playing.”
USA Rugby Club Department Manager Erik Geib supports the Rugby Utah plan and is hopeful it will lead to more success locally and nationally for American rugby.
“USA Rugby is very excited to see Rugby Utah step forward to organize the higher levels of the game in Utah,” Geib said, “The state is a great, under-tapped resource for players, and it has yearned for some professional organization at the adult level. We’re confident that Rugby Utah is on track for some really revolutionary development.”
All MPD member clubs will continue to play during the Spring of 2017 leading into the local and national summer 7s season where local 7s-only clubs may opt to join the MPD for the Rugby Utah 7s Series.
Men’s Premier Division & National Development Academy Provide United Pathways
The new Rugby Utah MPD adds a much-needed organized 15’s competition that has been lacking from the Utah rugby landscape for almost a decade and adds the complementary program to the already established 7s pathway that Rugby Utah has built with the National Development Academy (NDA).
Kjar was quick to point out the leadership and trust of each of the MPD teams in catching the vision of the Rugby Utah MPD model and the opportunities that it would provide their clubs and the players.
“Each of these clubs are making sacrifices by founding this competition,” he said, “But they’re doing it to build pathways for our rugby community and the rising generation of players. And that’s what this is about. Now our youth, high school and collegiate athletes will have something to shoot for as they develop and grow in the game. In the end, these clubs will be the beneficiaries of this new pathway as Utah Youth Rugby and collegiate players filter through their teams in an effort to make the EPT and NDA squads once they’ve graduated from those respective levels.”
USA Rugby’s Geib went on to comment on the already-seen result of the Rugby Utah NDA program in connection to the possibilities might be on the 15s side with EPT program.
“In its first year competing in Club 7s,” Geib said, “Rugby Utah has already put forth a team that won the prestigious Frontier Men’s Sevens Series. That competition has put a team in the top-3 of the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship for ten consecutive years. There is strong potential [for Rugby Utah] to step in to 15s play and make a similar impact.”
The Rugby Utah NDA squad is preparation in lead up to the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships on August 13-14 in Denver, CO at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. Fans can watch all the action on TheRugbyChannel.tv.
The NDA squad will round out their summer 7s season at the prestigious Serevi RugbyTown 7s in Glendale, CO August 26-28. For more details go to http://infinityparkatglendale.com/2015/rugbytown-7s/.
The Rugby Utah MPD will compete for the Iosepa Shield, a new traveling trophy named in honor of the Utah’s Polynesian Pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that laid the foundation for one of the world’s largest Polynesian communities in Utah.
The city of Iosepa (which is Hawaiian for “Joseph”) was named after LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith, who was one of the first LDS Missionaries to serve the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the late 19th century.
Iosepa was founded as a “gathering place” for people from the Hawaiian Islands in Utah who had converted to the LDS Church and soon became a home for similarly-converted people of faith from other Polynesian countries.
Despite the inhospitable desert conditions that Iosepa offered the people laid the foundation in Utah for what is now one of the largest Polynesian communities that resides outside of Polynesia.
Given this heritage and what the Polynesian community has impacted rugby in the state of Utah at all levels Kjar said the name of Iosepa Shield serves as a memorial to another class of Utah Pioneers.
“We talk of Pioneers in Utah a lot,” he said, “Those who came and built something out of nothing here in the high desert of Utah. The Iosepa Shield reminds all of our teams and our rugby community of their roots and gives them a vantage on what makes our state great—doing something that has never been done before. That’s what the Rugby Utah MPD program is all about and the Iosepa Shield connects our past with our future.”
Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division Venue
All Rugby Utah MPD games will be played at Olympus High School football stadium in Holladay, UT with the Iosepa Shield finals being played at the Regional Athletic Complex on October 29th. Admission is $5 for all spectators 12 and older with everyone under the age of 12 admitted for free.
For a full schedule of the Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division and to learn more about the Elite Provincial Team go to: www.RugbyUtah.com. Also follow the competition news and updates on Facebook and Twitter.
Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division Teams
- Liberty Rugby Club
- Park City Haggis
- Salt Lake Gladiators
- Salt Lake Spartans
- United Men’s Club
- Utah Brothers
- West Valley Lions
Rugby Utah Men’s Premier Division 2016 Schedule
- AUGUST 27:
- 11am: Park City Haggis vs. Salt Lake Spartans
- 1pm: Utah Brothers vs. Salt Lake Gladiators
- 3pm: United Men’s Club vs. West Valley Lions
- BYE: Liberty Rugby Club
- September 10:
- 11am: Park City Haggis vs. Utah Brothers
- 1pm: Salt Lake Gladiators vs. Liberty Rugby Club
- 3pm: West Valley Lions vs. Salt Lake Spartans
- BYE: United Men’s Club
- September 17:
- 11am: Park City Haggis vs. Salt lake Gladiators
- 1pm: Utah Brothers vs. West Valley Lions
- 3pm: United Men’s Club vs. Liberty Rugby Club
- BYE: Salt Lake Spartans
- September 24:
- 11am: Park City Haggis vs. Liberty Rugby Club
- 1pm: Salt Lake Gladiators vs. West Valley Lions
- 3pm: Salt Lake Spartans vs. United Men’s Club
- BYE: Utah Brothers
- October 1:
- 11am: Park City Haggis vs. West Valley Lions
- 1pm: Utah Brothers vs. United Men’s Club
- 3pm: Salt Lake Spartans vs. Liberty Rugby Club
- BYE: Salt Lake Gladiators
- October 8:
- 11am: Utah Brothers vs. Salt Lake Spartans
- 1pm: Salt Lake Gladiators vs. United Men’s Club
- 3pm: West Valley Lions vs. Liberty Rugby Club
- BYE: Park City Haggis
- October 15:
- 11am: Park City Haggis vs. United Men’s Club
- 1pm: Utah Brothers vs. Liberty Rugby Club
- 3pm: Salt Lake Spartans vs. Salt Lake Gladiators
- BYE: West Valley Lions
- October 22: (Iosepa Shield playoffs based on regular standings)
- 11am: Bowl Semifinal–#6 vs. #7
- 1pm: Iosepa Shield Semifinal #1–#2 vs. #3
- 3pm: Iosepa Sheild Semifinal #2–#1 vs. #4
- BYE: #5
- October 29: (Iosepa Shield Finals @ Regional Athletic Complex)
- 11am: Bowl Final: #5 vs. Winner of Bowl Semifinal
- 1pm: Iosepa Shield 3rd/4th Place Final: Losers of Iosepa Shield Semifinals #1 & #2
- 3pm: Iosepa Shield Final: Winners of Iosepa Shield Semifinals #1 & #2
- BYE: Loser of Bowl Semifinal