By Tim Pickwell
Local schoolboy rugby continues its evolution, as the former off-campus club sport has become the newest sport offered by Torrey Pines High School.
“Rugby is coming on campus for the upcoming 2014-2015 winter season,” confirmed TPHS Boy’s Athletic Director Matt Livingston. “What that means is the club sport is being supported and operated under the direction of the Torrey Pines High School Foundation, and with the help of my office.”
The move is part of an arms race that saw Cathedral Catholic bring its program fully on campus a few seasons back, while La Costa Canyon’s rugby program is now operating under the auspices of the principal’s office. The Carmel Valley-based San Diego Mustangs Rugby Club had previously registered players and managed the “Torrey Pines” high school season. But, those junior varsity and varsity clubs were only loosely affiliated with the school, played only an occasional match on campus, and allowed players from other high schools that did not offer rugby to participate.
“Now,” says Livingstone, “the program must abide by and strictly follow all CIF Green Book rules. While CIF has nothing to do with rugby, and doesn’t recognize rugby as a high school sport, the same rules and bylaws followed by all CIF sports will be governing rugby during this season, and for years to come.”
San Diego Mustangs Rugby Club President David Pool, who also coaches varsity backs, called this a significant move. “This legitimizes rugby at Torrey Pines High School. It provides an extra sport for students to experience with their schoolmates, and it provides the team greater access to more players.”
The program will debut on campus with 60-70 players spread over the junior varsity and varsity teams.
“We are expecting a big turnout,” said Livingston, “which will make rugby a top-tier sport on campus. Football, track, swimming and lacrosse have large teams as well, but rugby will be right up there with them.”
The JV and Varsity teams will still compete in the Southern California Youth Rugby League, which divides high school teams into three divisions: Red (single school); White (80 percent of players from one school); and Blue (newer programs). Last year, Torrey Pines’ JV and Varsity swept the White Division championships, while Cathedral’s Varsity won the Red. This season, Torrey Pines, Cathedral and LCC will all compete in the Red Division.
“The opportunity for TPHS to have a rugby team on campus is mostly due to the interest, support and enthusiasm of the many coaches, parents, and players in the community,” said Livingston. “We are very fortunate to have a solid foundation and professional coaches who know the safety and skills needed to gain the trust of the community, and turn out consistent, fun and successful seasons. They have been doing this for a long time, and our school sees it as a good fit to be included in what they have built, and to carry it forth under the Falcon banner. We look forward to a fine season with our rugby athletes, and can’t wait to watch them play.”
Organizing the Varsity will be Matty Sandoval, a former USD Rugby All-American player, and a long-time coach with the Mustangs.
“We had a great turnout at our initial team meeting,” says Sandoval. “Many familiar faces like returning high school All-American Toran Raby, and stalwart flanker Mason O’Rosky, but many new faces as well that I attribute to rugby being a ‘letter’ sport for the first time at Torrey Pines. This season looks to be very special, and I think we’ll have just the team to make the school proud.”
The Falcon rugby players will participate in a tournament the weekend of Dec. 6-7, and then open with their first match, at Ed Burke Stadium on campus, against St. Augustine on Friday, Dec. 19.