San Diego has a new rugby team. We caught up with seven San Diego Legion players from as far as the U.K. to learn more about the team and the sport. Here's what we found out...
Dylan Audsley, 24, London and Scottsdale
They call you "Mr. British."
I grew up in London, then moved to Arizona. My mom’s American, my dad’s English.
What’s your favorite place in California?
Because I haven’t been here that long, it’s to be determined. I’d really like to go see Joshua Tree; that’s not far.
What’s a big misconception people have about rugby?
A lot of people compare it to American football, but it’s much more of a skill sport. It’s much more open and fluid. I would equate it more to basketball or soccer. In American football, size is important, but size is something you can develop much easier than developing the skill set that’s required.
Ryan Matyas, 27, Tucson
Did you come to San Diego just for rugby?
I moved to San Diego in 2013, to a full-time contract with the USA Sevens team. Then I moved to New Zealand, then New York, and then I came back here and got involved with the Sevens team, so I’ve been in San Diego since last March.
What are some American misconceptions about rugby?
That it’s unsafe. It is rough and dangerous, but it’s safer than football, just because our whole sport is all about technique. I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, rugby, you guys are crazy, you don’t wear any pads." It is pretty dangerous, but at the same time, to get to this point, we kind of have to learn a lot of techniques and a lot of small skills to put your head in the right place, to put your body in the right place. Obviously injuries do happen, but I think that the misconception is that it’s chaos out there, just running straight into each other and slamming heads and stuff. You do bump heads once in a while—it’s part of the game—but it’s rare, I’d say.
Do you have any pregame traditions?
Not at all, actually. I used to be very superstitious. Once I moved overseas to New Zealand, I threw all of that out the window and just started from scratch. I’ve been enjoying the way my game’s been going since then, so I just stuck with it. I realized I don’t need to do XYZ mentally to make it work on the field. I do all the work during the week to make it work on the field.
Gil Covey, 25, San Diego
Have you been to any of the places your teammates have been?
I’ve played rugby in New Zealand. I played rugby in the Republic of Georgia with San Diego State last year.
What have your international teammates taught you?
All the coaches say "mate," and we make fun of them, like, "hey, mate!" They don’t think we’re joking.
Why is rugby better than football?
It just doesn’t stop. It’s not like football, where you get a break and you go to a Bud Light commercial every five seconds.
Before a game, do you have any superstitions?
Right sock before left sock.
Yeah. And if we’re on a bus, I have to sit next to the window.
Devin Short, 19, Las Vegas
Did you come to San Diego for this?
Yes. In January.
Is this your full-time job?
How long have you been playing rugby?
A year and a half.
How did you get into it?
In high school, one of my friends in math class was like, "Hey, my dad’s starting a team; you’re athletic, you play football, I think you’ll like rugby." So I was like, "All right, I’ll try it."
When you’re off the field, how do you unwind or relax?
I go to the beach or sit in the hot tub in our apartment complex.
What do you do before you play?
I like to sit by myself, kind of get myself in the zone. When I’m in the zone, I kind of get all crazy.
And did you do that when you played high school football, too?
Yeah. My team would pray and we would just get hyped.
Anthony Salaber, 23, Dixon, California
Did you move to San Diego for this?
Yes, I did. About six weeks ago. It’s nice.
What’s the worst thing about practice?
I would say rucking drills.
What is that?
Where we’ve got to hit each other, get down low, and everyone’s fighting for the ball. It’s fun in the game, but not when you’re going against your own teammates, and everyone’s trying to kick each other’s ass.
What do people need to know about the game?
You need to know that it’s a physical, fast-paced game that’s fun to watch.
Have you played internationally?
I played down in Argentina for the summer, never professionally or anything like that. I’ve been overseas; I’ve played in Wales, England… It’s taken me all over.
How is having the Legion better for San Diego than having the Chargers?
First off, we won’t leave. We’re loyal to San Diego.
Nick Evans, 28, Atoka, Tennessee
Did you move here for rugby?
My girlfriend plays for the women’s national team. She trains down [in Chula Vista], so we moved down there for that just over a year ago.
And what’s your favorite thing about San Diego so far?
The beaches. My parents are in the military, so for the first half of my life, it was all living by beaches, and then we moved to Tennessee and were landlocked; we never got to see the beach. I love it now. I go any chance I get.
Have you played internationally?
No. I played for the Collegiate All-Americans.
What’s great about rugby?
I like that, post-match, it’s more of a big family. The team and the opponents all get together and grab something to eat, we hang out, share stories. I’ve jumped around a bunch—in the south, northeast, here, I’ve been to South Africa—and it’s all the same. Pretty much anywhere you go, you have somewhere to stay. So when I moved to Seattle, I just packed my car up and moved, and somebody let me crash in their spare bedroom for as long as I needed. I didn’t even know the person; I met him when I got there.
Mike Te’o, 24, Long Beach
When did you move to San Diego?
In 2012 for USA Sevens.
Do you live in Carmel Valley with all the other guys?
Do you have a favorite place to go in San Diego?
Probably Mona Lisa in Little Italy.
How do you hope San Diego will respond?
I hope they get behind it; I know they lost the football team a couple of years ago. I hope people get out of their shells and come try it out. Come to the game, at least one, and see what it’s about.
I think people will.
Once you watch one, you’ll get hooked.