The University of Wisconsin defeated Western Illinois 52-5 this weekend, an early-spring hit-out before they take a Spring Break tour of Texas starting March 31.
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For the Badgers, it’s a mixed spring as they prepare simultaneously for the national D1-AA playoffs and the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s tournament on NBC.
Preparation for both is important, said captain Ben Knight, who plays fullback in 15s and flyhalf in 7s.
“ We’ve struck a good balance,” Knight told RUGBYMag.com. “Right now we’re doing two days a week focused on conditioning for 7s, a lot of interval sprinting, stuff like that. We’ve been working a lot on the endurance side of 7s. Then we’re training two or three times a week in 15s. I think the toughest part of the balance is the mind-set – the games are different.”
Head Coach Skip Heffernan brought in Paul Stroede to work with the 7s team, and Knight praised Heffernan for his generosity in taking a step back when 7s is concerned.
“Skip did a great job of taking a step back and letting coach Stroede take the reins,” Knight said. “He does want us to get back in that 15s mentality, though!”
Knight and No. 8 Andrew Hanske lead a Wisconsin team that has big hopes for the D1-AA playoffs. Hanske will also be part of the 7s forward group going to PPL Park in Philadelphia.
“We’ve got some smart players in the back row who make the transition from 7s to 15s and back,” Knight said. “With our success at both we’re starting to generate a little bit of momentum. We’ve got 50 guys coming out to practice and have had some articles in the local paper. A lot more people come out to our games, especially since we won the Big-10 7s.”
Knight said the team continues to drill fitness and 7s fundamentals, and those fundamentals translate well to the 15s side of things.
For right now, it’s the 15-a-sde game that is most important.
They play Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M and possibly Rice on their Texas trip, and follow that up with a clash with UW-Whitewater, the top DII college program in the region.
“We do that and it’s right into nationals,” said Knight. “It’s all coming pretty quick.”