By Tim Pickwell
Billy Maggs and Drew Gaffney are doing something different for spring break. Not spring skiing, or hitting the beach. Instead, they are hitting opposing rugby players from Europe as they participate in a prestigious international youth rugby tournament at Wellington College, about 35 miles southwest of London.
Maggs, a Del Mar resident, and Gaffney, from Carmel Valley, are teammates on the San Diego Mustangs Youth Rugby Club, which plays and practices in Carmel Valley. Maggs is a junior at Torrey Pines High School, while Gaffney is a junior at Cathedral Catholic. The two were selected by USA Rugby to its U17 High School All American Team. They have been practicing in the UK since March 31, and had their first match against Wales on April 7. They continue with matches against England North on April 10, and Belgium on April 13, before returning home. Maggs was selected to start at outside center in the first match (a 33-13 loss to a more experienced Welsh squad), and both Maggs and Gaffney are expected to see considerable playing time in future matches.
The Mustangs were one of only two clubs in the nation to land at least two players on the HSAA U17 squad. The 29 boys on the team come from 13 different states, the District of Columbia, and even London, where two of the American boys live.
Rugby is the third most viewed sport in the world, after Soccer and the Olympics. Rugby 7’s (the faster version of the 15-man per side sport) will be an exhibition sport in this summer’s London Olympics, and a full medal sport in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. USA Rugby is an official member of the United States Olympic Committee and the International Rugby Board. The USA Rugby squad trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.
Despite missing Maggs and Gaffney, the deep Mustangs U19 squad defeated Empire Rugby and Fallbrook Rugby in the past two weeks to run their record to 9-0. The Southern California playoffs begin for the top-seeded Mustangs on April 21 at the “Little Q” Rugby field next to Qualcomm Stadium.