Keene State College’s men’s rugby recently added a new member to its team. Matthew Webber, who came from New Zealand, is still settling in, but is enjoying his time here.
Some might recognize his name. That is because he used to play professional rugby. Webber played pro for eight years. He played for several different teams, including the Auckland Provincial and the Auckland Blues in New Zealand, the Eastern Providence in South Africa and the English Premiership in Bedford, England. Right after playing, he transitioned into coaching. He has coached Belmont Shore Rugby Club in Long Beach, California in numerous USA National Super League Championship games. Additionally, he was the assistant coach to the USA National Team when it qualified for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Webber said he heard there was a rugby team here at KSC, so he approached the right people and couldn’t be happier.
Webber said the team has welcomed him with open arms and he’s very excited to see them accomplish many things and grow. He said, “I would really love them to focus for the beginning of next year and give us some time to get conditioned, get some plays in place and look to improve big time.”
Webber said, right now, his obstacle is scheduling practices that don’t conflict with the players’ class schedules.
Despite this difficulty, Webber said he’s looking forward to working at KSC. “I’m extremely excited to get back to grassroots rugby and offer any assistance I can to the Keene State College rugby program.” He added that rugby is such a passionate game, and it teaches vital life skills, as well as universal respect based on hard work, commitment, sacrifice and selflessness.
Furthermore, he said it is rewarding to help the team develop a love for the game.
Head Coach John Johannesen said having Webber here has been a big help. Johannesen said he can now focus on practicing with one set of players while Webber is with the other group. Although the team is split up between forwards and backs, Johannesen said practices are less scattered but they do not go by quicker.
Johannesen said there have been changes with Webber being here, but he and the team work well together. “We changed a few dynamics with the guys. There’s more ball movement versus contact and going to the ground,” he said.
First-year Zach Collins said, “He’s very knowledgeable of the game and has definitely helped the team understand and work on skills that we can use on the field.”
Webber said he will be taking it day by day, and will see what needs to be done, but he thanks Johannesen for doing everything he has done so far with the team. “I want to add how much of a fantastic job John has done for the rugby program at the college,” he said.
The team’s last tournament was this past Saturday, April 21, against UMass Dartmouth and Williams College at Williams College.
Adriana Sanchez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org