Coach Q&A: Boston College’s Robert Conway – Collegiate Rugby Championship
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Robert Conway has been the head coach of Boston College’s Rugby Football Club since fall 2013 . He has an extensive background in the sport, having played for various clubs and teams internationally. Below are some excerpts from a recent interview he did with us.

Is there one particular local rival for Boston College?

It’s kind of split for us. Naturally with the rugby team it’s Northeastern. They’re five minutes down the road and they’ve always been in the same division as us. If you’re talking about BC itself, I would say probably Harvard would be our biggest rival. We play them every spring. We play them every fall in friendly games- really we don’t see them in any kind of competition. It’s kind of split between those two. We’re reasonably happy with that because they’re so close to us- we don’t have to travel too that far for good competition.

Boston College Bounces Back

Your squad for the 2017 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is full of a lot of new players this year, what are your thoughts going in as the coach?

I’m sure most, if not all coaches who get to the college level and work with the CRCs probably go around the same thing. I mean obviously because we are a club sport team, we are very reliant on whatever freshmen or whatever players are arriving each year. We don’t have the luxury of recruitment or offering financial aid for any player. So we just have to kind of deal with what crop of players we have. But the crop of players we have this spring, that we didn’t have access to last year because they went abroad in their junior year, they’re still at a very elite level that we would’ve loved to have had last year.

We had a great fall season with them. So we know they’re at the right level that we need them to be at competition time. It’s just the fact of: You’re the new guys, you play 15s really well but let’s get them ready to play 7s. A lot of times it’s being able to flip them over and get them playing the right game in the right style, and depending on who we have then it kind of changes our game plan.

Last year we had a very back-oriented team so we were able to play free-flowing, fast, continually moving and running game. That might change a little bit this year. We’re probably looking at a more physical side of the game with the players we have available. So it’s just a constant adaptation.

Boston College Builds Momentum towards their 2016 CRC Appearance

When do you make your final roster choices when it comes time for the CRC?

That’s another very tough issue that we have compared to some of the other schools where a lot of the varsity teams that we might come up against throughout the season maintain a much smaller, definite squad of 25-35 players. Because we’re a club sport team we can’t refuse or reject any players.

So we actually have a squad of between 90-120 men in our team. So you’re talking about starting the spring [with about] 100 men trying out for the team. We run our 15s and 7s side-by-side. I break that squad of 100 down to about 25 that focus mainly on the 7s for the spring. Because we’re a club sport, because it’s kind of hard to manage injuries, to make sure guys are in shape at the right point of the year, to make sure that they’re mentally and physically ready for the CRCs: We can’t actually define or narrow down our squad until probably three or four weeks before we actually go to Philadelphia. The reason why we do it at that stage, is it’s before they do their final exams and before guys have to decide whether, ‘Do we stay behind after graduation or do we go home because our season’s over?’

So we really have to wait to the last minute that we have. That’s unfortunate. I would like at this point to be able to say, ‘These guys are going to be our top 15. We’re probably going to pick our 12 or 13 players to go to Philadelphia out of this.’ But because I just don’t know who’s going to be available by the end of the year, I simply can’t do that at this point.

Do you interact with BC’s women’s team or are you completely separate entities?

We interact quite a lot. I’m even talking to some coaches recently and the school- we even share rugby balls, we share cones, we share tackle bags, head shields, we’ll even share coaches. I’ll have my Assistant Coach Kareem go over there and help out with their line-outs or their scrummaging. We interact quite a lot. We practice at the same times. We practice right besides each other and we have a good relationship between the two teams.  It’s been like that for years and I really don’t see that hopefully changing any time soon.

Media Contacts:
Jim DeLorenzo, jim@jhdenterprises.com, (215) 266-5943
Joe Favorito, fatherknickerbocker1@yahoo.com, (201) 746-0005
Clara Lefton, clara.lefton@gmail.com

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