Men’s rugby hires two new coaches

File photo by Madeline Turriff
File photo by Madeline Turriff

The Wilfrid Laurier University men’s rugby team will be seeing two fresh faces take the reins after a winless season last year.

On July 3 it was announced former coach Rob McQueen will be replaced by head coach Ian McLeod and associate head coach Jeff Wood this upcoming season.

Wally Gabler, coordinator of interuniversity sport at the department of athletics, explained what qualifications McLeod and Wood met in order to gain their positions.

“We wanted to find a coach, and luckily we found two coaches, that fit the philosophy and the vision that we have for all of our programs. Ian and Jeff certainly fit the bill as well as the fit with the department and that vision that Peter and the rest of the department staff have,” he said.

Specifically, the two coaches bring a lengthy resume to this position, as they both have a wide range of experience coaching Rugby across Ontario and multiple age groups. According to Gabler, it is not just their experience that intrigued the program, but the fact that both coaches have triumphed at each level they have coached at.

“You can’t teach success. That experience of being successful and knowing how to build a program and win at all levels, we’re pretty confident that it is going to translate to the OUA,” said Gabler.

Head Coach McLeod said once he gets oriented with the team, success won’t be possible unless the team’s attitude is there.

“I am going to have to get to know them, and what their compete level is and how badly they want to win. We can work on skills and platforms and do all of those things, but if the will to compete and win is not there then none of that matters,” he said.

Something the players were vocal about with Coach McQueen was his inability to connect with the players, and that is something Gabler and the department of athletics has taken into consideration in hiring the new head staff.

“They have already reached out to the team via e-mail. The student athletes that I have talked to in the last week have been very receptive, encouraged and excited about having them as coaches,” said Gabler.

McLeod is adamant that while the player-coach relationship is something he is well versed in, it is something that requires work on both sides.

“I think if you talk to people who have played for me they will say I am a player’s coach but they have to be part of the solution… My belief is that we are all part of the same thing, and if I am going to hold them accountable, they are going to have to hold me accountable as well,” he said.

According to Gabler, the program has the tools to be competitive right away. That being said, the new coaching staff is still being given a timeline for turning around the rugby club.

“As we discussed in the interview and at a subsequent meeting that I had with them, we see this as a three-year project to get to where the program can be one of the top teams in the OUA,” he said.

McLeod commented on the timeline him and his staff were given.

“I think three years is fair,” he said. “I would like to expedite that but I am also not going to put out delusions of grandeur. It’s a beat up program that needs to be revived and that is what this year is about. It’s changing the culture of the club and getting everybody on side with what we are about.”

Both Gabler and the coaching staff agree that there is much work to be done, and nowhere to go but up.

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