Injuries provide valuable playing time for Warriors’ young players
HERRIMAN — Injuries are never ideal for any sports team, although they can create some opportunities for growth.
That’s the attitude the Utah Warriors are taking as they prepare to take on Rugby ATL this Saturday at Zions Bank Stadium.
Yet again the Warriors will field a team absent several players who started the season, namely scrum half Niall Saunders, lock Jamie Lane and prop Franco Van Den Berg, among others. Again, not an ideal situation for a team that has lost six straight games, although Utah aims to make the most of it in hopes of promoting growth and momentum moving forward.
One of those being asked to step up to take on a more significant role is first-year prop Emerson Prior, who is relishing his opportunity.
— Utah Warriors Rugby (@utwarriorsrugby) May 3, 2022
“I knew coming in that learning behind Franco and ‘Oli (Kilifi) would be an unreal opportunity,” Prior, who will be asked to fill a larger role for Utah this Saturday, said. “Unfortunately they’re both [dealing with injuries], but hopefully I’ve soaked up enough from them. I’m just excited to rip into it and give it my all.”
Prior was drafted by the Warriors from Ontario, Canada where he’s been playing rugby since he was nine years old. Since arriving in Utah he’s been mindful to learn as much as he can from the more experienced players ahead of him, along with forwards coach Robbie Abel.
“He’s such a great resource and his resume speaks for itself,” Prior said of Abel. “But he’s also really approachable and really friendly. He’s patient, but also a great teacher. Both ‘Oli and Franco are the same, too, and I’ve been so thankful for all the time all of them have taken with me, and hopefully it can pay off now that I’ll likely be playing more.”
Another late addition has been scrum half Zion Going, who comes to the Warriors from New Zealand. While Prior has had the entire season to be coached into a more prominent role, Going joined the Warriors just a few weeks ago and is now tasked to help man one of the more central positions on the field.
Back home this week
— Utah Warriors Rugby (@utwarriorsrugby) May 2, 2022
“It’s hard adjusting to the altitude and all that, but I’ve loved it here and I’m ready to go,” Going said. “I’ve had some good experience playing in New Zealand and then in Australia, and I feel like I’m good and ready to go here and help out where they need me.”
Taking on Rugby ATL (8-3, second in the Eastern Conference) won’t be an easy task for a Warrior team that hopes to break their current six-game slide.
“They have a really good defensive structure and they’re fast and physical,” Prior observed. “We just have to play for each other. That’s the biggest thing for us. If we do that and stick with our game plan, then we’re confident we can get a win.”
UTAH WARRIORS VS. RUGBY ATL
Date: Saturday, May 7
Time: 8:00 PM MDT
Where: Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman
Broadcast: The Rugby Network, KMYU
Radio: ESPN 700
Brandon Gurney is the Utah Warriors Team Reporter. With nearly two decades of experience covering BYU Football in print and on radio, Gurney brings a wealth of experience to the Utah Warriors beat. You can read all of Gurney’s stories on the Utah Warriors throughout the 2022 Season at warriorsrugby.com
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