McLeod reflects on joining the Warriors ahead of Chicago matchup
HERRIMAN, Utah — When working to form this year’s Utah Warriors squad, first-year coach Greg Cooper felt the team he was inheriting was well-stocked at most positions although a few tweaks were necessary.
Enter Connor McLeod.
With last year’s primary scrum half Niall Saunders serving out a lengthy suspension, along with Danny Christensen being traded to the Dallas Jackals in the offseason, Cooper worked to lure McLeod over from New Zealand shore up the critical No. 9 position.
“We were looking for someone in the middle that was like the glue,” Cooper said of McLeod. “He does all the basics really well…he understands defensive situations and controls those situations…he comes with that pedigree and we’ve seen that through the first two weeks of competition.”
McLeod never envisioned himself playing rugby in the United States, but some good familiarity with Cooper, along with fellow teammate Caleb Makene made the decision easier.
“We get along well,” McLeod said. “I think it helped having Caleb talking about how it’s good rugby out here and it definitely helped with my decision. I’m not too sure if I’d be out here without those conversations.”
McLeod found a welcoming team upon arrival from New Zealand, which has helped his acclimation to his new environment.
“The boys made it real easy to come in here,” McLeod said. “They’re really welcoming — especially guys like Lance (Williams) who tell you about the good spots. It definitely makes it easier.”
As for his connection with Cooper, it goes quite a ways back, with the Warriors head coach having played with and against McLeod’s father throughout his playing career. “I’ve known the family for a long time,” Cooper said.
McLeod has been generally pleased with his play through the first two weeks of the season although working hard to improve in certain facets, along with the rest of the team.
The next test for the Warriors comes this Sunday with a match set against the Chicago Hounds on the road. Chicago lost its first game of the season 42-27 to Old Glory DC before having a bye in preparation for the Warriors while showing some strong abilities, according to Cooper.
“They’re a good side,” Cooper assessed. “They actually held the ball longer than any side this year. So they hold the ball a lot and they’re very structured in their approach. If you allow them to dominate you physically, then they can get on top.”
As for the Warriors, the work involves not cracking near the try line on both the offensive and defensive sides.
“We gave away five tries,” Cooper said. “So we worked on fixing that side of our game…we didn’t tighten up in our zone and then we need to finish up when we get inside their zone. So that’s what we’re focused on this week.”
UTAH WARRIORS VS. CHICAGO HOUNDS
DATE: SUNDAY, MARCH 5
TIME: 12:00 PM MST
WHERE: SEATGEEK STADIUM, BRIDGEVIEW
BROADCAST: KMYU, TRN, ESPN700, KSLSPORTS.COM
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