Letter from DRFC Head Coach Gavin Hickie

Dear Friends,

Although our Ivy season is merely three weeks old, the staff and players of the DRFC have been hard at work for months. As soon as the CRC concludes each year, we, the DRFC staff, consisting of Alex Magleby, James Willocks, Ben Schuler and I, sit down together and review all the lessons learned over the previous 12 months. We evaluate each area of our game, to see what we can do more effectively. The DRFC is constantly evolving through a new senior class each year, and through a young professional coaching staff with an insatiable appetite to push the boundaries of our sport.

We have the most wonderful student-athletes at the DRFC. Young men who demonstrate unwavering commitment to the cause on a daily basis. The cause created in 1951 going from strength to strength today.

It is the staff of the DRFC I would like to focus on and provide you with an update.

Alex Magleby '00, Technical Advisor to the DRFC is also USA Rugby’s General Manager of National Teams and Performance. Mags oversees all of our men’s and women’s national teams and is a key component of USA Rugby’s long-term vision for success. USA Rugby is in safe hands with the Big Green’s former captain and coach steering the ship of high performance development. Alex was in Rio this summer, witnessing rugby return to the Olympics after a 92-year absence.  Leading Team USA was of course, our very own Madison Hughes ’15.

DRFC Assistant Coach, James Willocks had a very busy summer too. James is an integral part of our coaching staff with a very bright coaching future ahead of him. Along with coaching the DRFC student-athletes, Coach Willocks oversees all of our strength and conditioning in Floren Varsity Gym. James consistently gets the best from our Big Green rugby players. James also works with Dartmouth football players in his capacity as Assistant S&C Football Coach. Coach Willocks provides us with close ties to our football program and has been instrumental in turning former Big Green football captain, Stephen Dazzo ‘15, into one of the country’s leading young rugby players. 

On top of welcoming baby Charlie into the word this year, James was part of the USA Rugby Collegiate All-American staff who traveled to Australia in August. Coach Willocks is a rising star within the USA Rugby world.

The DRFC would not function as fluidly as it does without the incredible hard work of our athletic trainer, Ben Schuler. From working with many players around the country, and getting a deeper understanding of the various collegiate rugby programs around the US, I have become acutely aware of the challenges most collegiate rugby programs face. Not only does the DRFC boast the very best facilities and alumni support in the country, we also boast the very best rugby athletic trainer. Ben looks after any and all of our bumps and bruises incurred by our student-athletes, ensuring their safety and wellbeing first and foremost. I work closely with Ben, monitoring all of our athletes’ health. Over the years, Ben has built a strong relationship with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, which provides all of our student-athletes speedy access to top medical care. Ben’s typical day consists of working out of Davis Athletic Training Center on campus, multiple visits to DHMC and of course, being ever present at our practices and games. Ben goes above and beyond his duties each and every day for the DRFC and we are very fortunate to be able to count on his services. It gives me great peace of mind to know that our student-athletes are in very safe hands.

It is because of Ben’s tireless work ethic that saw him selected as athletic trainer to the USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans tour to Australia this summer. Ben is a vital cog in the DRFC machine.

We are excited to welcome back Quinn Connell ’13 as our Development coach this Fall. Quinn was co-captain in 2012/13, my first year as head coach of the DRFC and finds himself back on campus as the Director of Engineering of the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP).  Quinn’s MVP is taking the football world by storm and will be unveiled in rugby in due course. Quinn is doing a superb job with our freshmen rugby players and we are fortunate to have a recent Dartmouth graduate within our coaching ranks.

We are delighted to welcome Annalise Hall to our coaching staff this year. Annalise is a New Zealand intern from Otaga Technical College. Annalise contributes to all our strength and conditioning, while assisting Coach Quinn will our Development squad.

The DRFC has proven to be an ideal learning environment for our coaching staff. Former New Zealand interns, Matt Long and Todd Thornley are now thriving in their professions. Matt is head of strength and conditioning at London-Scottish Rugby Football Club and Todd is the head coach of Central Washington varsity rugby program.

Rugby is a year-round sport these days. Since the CRC in June, I have led our USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans squad to a highly successful tour of Australia. Along with Coach Willocks and Ben, Coach McWilliams of Yale and Coach Hickey of Notre Dame, I oversaw a three game series “Down Under” against Darling Downs RFC, Brothers RFC and Queensland Selects. The coaching staff provided an intense High Performance environment for our country’s elite collegiate rugby players, working their way towards becoming future Eagles. Many of the players on our tour to Australia have been selected to the USA Select squad, which is currently playing an international competition in Uruguay. Working at the national level, provides the DRFC staff with unique challenges, thus developing our own coaching skills.

After I returned from Australia back to Hanover, our new season with the DRFC commenced with a two-week preseason training period. We started with tough losses to Boston College and Navy before starting our Ivy Rugby Championship defense. It is important to note that each year, the DRFC staff and players map out our season. We go through a grueling pre-season before we get to pull on our Dartmouth rugby jersey and formally test ourselves. We aim to win every game we compete in. We aim to hit the ground running following preseason, but we do not aim to peak in September. While we firmly believe we are fully capable of beating BC and Navy and aim to do, we are fully aware that it takes us time to reach our potential each season. It takes time for new personnel and combinations to gel. We aim to learn from every practice and every game, peaking midway through our Ivy season, which is almost upon us. I am confident we are in a good place to defend our Ivy Rugby Championship for the ninth consecutive year. We never take our place atop of the Ivies for granted, and we strive each day to ensure we remain where we believe we should be.

We are currently 2-0 in our Ivy Championship. We shutout a tough and emotional Harvard team 20-0, opening their fantastic Mignone Rugby Field in the process. We stepped it up a gear last week in our first home game of the Ivy season by beating Brown 64-15. We are now starting to hit our stride and aim to take our form into a challenging fixture against Yale at New Haven Rugby Club this Saturday.

DRFC Captain, Hayden Aldredge ’17, spoke of our gratitude for what we have as Dartmouth rugby men. I would like to echo Hayden’s sentiments and thank you all for your ongoing support of the DRFC. The staff and players are acutely aware of the culture, history and hard work that has gone into making the DRFC what it is today. None of us would be here without those that have gone before us, without Corey Ford’s vision and guidance. We are indebted to each and every one of you that allows us to test ourselves every day in unbelievable surroundings. I have been extremely fortunate throughout my playing days to play on some of the top rugby pitches around the world. Twickenham, Murrayfield, Lansdowne Road, Welford Road, the Millennium Stadium, the list goes on. However, I firmly believe our gorgeous Brophy Field with the red trees in the Fall background is the most picturesque and beautiful setting for a game of rugby. Not a day goes by without us being extremely grateful to everyone who made Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse our home.



Gavin Hickie

DRFC Head Coach