Utah Rugby Cannibal’s High School 7s Program
Rugby Utah Release: Ken Rivera, Oct. 21, 2016
INTERNATIONAL SCOUTS, USA RUGBY OFFICIALS AND US OLYMPIANS AMONG VIP GUESTS AT RECENT RUGBY UTAH/UTAH YOUTH RUGBY CANNIBALS EVENT AHEAD OFCANNIBALS’ INTERNATIONAL DEBUT IN LONDON.
Utah Youth Rugby’s Select 7s Sevens Program, the Utah Cannibals, Heralded as one of the Nation’s Best Youth Pathways to High Performance Play and Professional Opportunities, is officially named the Youth Developmental Pathway in Rugby Utah’s Olympic Development Academy under USA Rugby.
Rugby Utah, the state’s official Geographic Rugby Organization announced today that the Utah Cannibal’s High School 7s Program (the official select side of Utah Youth Rugby – the USA Rugby State Based Rugby Organization for youth and high school rugby in Utah) has captured international attention as evidenced by the surprise visit of a delegation of top USA Rugby officials, scouts and Olympians to the recent Utah Cannibals training camp and the “Pink Sevens” and all girls high school rugby 7s tournament.
The surprise inspection came as a result of the Cannibal’s recent invitation to play in the HSBC Rosslyn Park Sevens, the largest and most prestigious Youth Rugby 7s event in the world, held in London, England in March of 2017 and the “Pink Sevens” developed by Utah Youth Rugby to showcase the top girls 7s teams in the region. The Pink Sevens Tournament was attended by Olympian Jillion Potter – USA Eagle and recent player in the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Rugby Utah from its inception promised Utah’s aspiring players, coaches, and referees we are dedicated to creating and maintaining the Sport’s most advanced and complete development pathway from youth to pros,” Said Ken Rivera, Chief Executive Officer of Rugby United Ventures, the parent company of Rugby Utah. “The UYR Cannibals Organization for Youth 7s, Rugby Utah’s Olympic Development Academy and our Men’s Elite Division are now positioned as elements of our pathway commitment and we’re still building. In that regard, you can expect to hear some more exciting announcements from our front office in the weeks to come.” hinted Rivera.
As evidence of Rivera’s statement, Cannibals programing has been designed to seamlessly link to the next age level up on Rugby Utah’s pathway. And in terms of incubating tomorrow’s champions, four College All Americans from Rugby Utah affiliated teams will travel to Australia representing the USA and two college players went to Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA as part of their try outs for the US National Team.
The Utah Cannibals program was established in 2010 as a pathway to showcase Utah’s top up and coming high school rugby players. Since 2010, the Utah Cannibals have placed 14 players in the High School All Americans, Collegiate and All-Americans. Former Cannibal starter Albi Gistaldo is playing professionally for the Vicenza Rangers in the Italian Serie A. Many former Cannibals have transitioned to Collegiate Rugby as well as Collegiate Football at top NCAA DIV I Programs.
Of note is 2016 standout back Kelsin Pupunu (2016), a true freshman, Pupunu has earned a starting spot on the University of Utah’s first XVs and will be in the starting 7s line up for the PAC 7s in November. He is joined by former Cannibals Players Christian Garcia (2016), Collegiate All American Chad Gough (2012) and Fumio Akai (2015). BYU standout Tua Laei (2010) played on the first Cannibals Team at the 2010 LVI, Tua played for the US U20s, toured with the USA Falcons / USA Eagles and has won two National Championships with BYU, and a National Men’s Club 7s Championship with Rugby Utah.
“There is simply no better and more comprehensive a development pathway for Rugby skills development for players, coaches and referees than what is being offered by Rugby Utah and Utah Youth Rugby,” stated Owen Power, UYR President.
Among the VIPs in attendance at the recent Cannibals and Pink Sevens Tournament was Jillion Potter fresh from her play in the return of Rugby to the Olympics in Rio where the women’s team placed 5th in the world. Potter was joined by Andrew Locke, a former Men’s US Falcon, current All Army Team player and U.S. Women’s Olympic 7s Assistant Coach “I was extremely impressed with the caliber of training and play being offered by Utah Youth Rugby and Rugby Utah,” said Locke. “In fact, I have identified four of Utah’s super talented female youth players as candidates to train at the Olympic Training Center, it’s clear that the Utah Cannibals Developmental Program has been a key aspect for their on-field performance.”
Also in attendance was former US 7s Eagle and two time U.S. National 7s Club Champion with the Seattle Saracens Rocco Mauer, said “I was blown away by the talent that was at the Utah Cannibals event, there will certainly be some future Eagles from this talented group of tough young athletes”. Eagle player and member of the Men’s Serevi Selects and Seattle Saracens John Cullen, said “It is really amazing to see how well these players get it. If they continue to attend Cannibals Elite sessions and play 7s, they will be ready for Collegiate and National Select 7s rugby for sure”.
The Cannibals year-round programing and training is led by former USA Eagle and current line out coach for USA U20’s team – Rob Randell as well as a number of notable former USA Eagles and the National Development Academy team – Steve St. Pierre, Jason Pye, Ben Nichols, Elwood “Jeff” Hullinger, Randy “Don” Pati, Tua Laei, and others as well as National team players and coaches from Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, England and Ireland.
The world rugby community has acclaimed Rugby Utah and Utah Youth Rugby as unparalleled in the elevating and growing the sport of Rugby and establishing a foundation that will benefit current and future generations.
Rugby players (boys and girls) between the ages of 14 and 17 interested in being considered by the Cannibals Staff for player identification, assessment and year round programming can submit an interest request via the Utah Cannibals website (www.utahcannibals.com).
About Rugby Utah
Rugby Utah Ventures, LLC (RU) is the official Recognized Geographic Rugby Organization for USA Rugby and focuses on aggregating the strengths of rugby in the state of Utah, from the youth to the elite levels. The goal of RU is to unify rugby within the state through high-performance programs like the Olympic Development Academy and Community programs like the Rugby Business Network, Touch Rugby League, and A 2nd Try Foundation. With these programs already producing positive results on and off the pitch the “United State of Rugby” looks to develop the most elite rugby players, coaches, and referees and to develop the economic engines necessary to build and strengthen America’s rugby culture. For more information, visit www.rugbyutah.com #UnitedStateofRugby