UCR's Kent Currie talks to Andrew Locke of Army

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Andrew Locke of Army RFU in Action

Army’s Andrew Locke has been the outstanding flyhalf in USA College Rugby for the past 2 years. His individual core skills are streets ahead of anyone else who plays flyhalf at the college level. He organizes his team well, has an accurate kick, a strong tackle, and has the ability to unleash 30 meter passes to his speedy outside backs.

He also has the ability to run the ball at the defensive line and pass the ball across his body, keeping his hips and shoulders square, to runners inside and outside him. This skill is an important one for a flyhalf and creates uncertainty in the defensive line. I hope Andrew has a successful rugby career after college and becomes a regular starter in the #10 jersey for the USA Eagles one day.

We were lucky enough to talk with Andrew and ask him some rugby questions.

Kent Currie: Thank you for taking time out from your schedule to talk
Andrew Locke: It’s my pleasure Kent

KC: How long have you been playing rugby?
AL: My Dad played rugby after college for the Houston Old Boys. I was attending his rugby tournaments and passing a ball around since I was walking. He developed a youth team at my elementary school, and I formally started playing touch U-15 7s around 4th grade. I played U-15s touch 7s until high school where I played U-19s full 15s.

KC: What influenced you to start playing rugby?
AL: My father. He has a lot of passion for the game, and it just rubbed off on me. My older brother, Tommy, was also playing, so I think it was me trying to do something he was doing.

KC: What are the best things about playing rugby?
AL: It’s all about the players on the field.

We must play within a game-plan and a team philosophy, but the reads are made and executed by the players. I love the continuity of good rugby, as well as the transitions during the game, whether it is offense to defense, vice versa, or penalties. I enjoy trying to make order out of chaos, and playing mental chess with other teams. Recently, I have been pretending I am a backrow and enjoy trying to get into rucks and poach ball. And last but not least, there is nothing like the camaraderie and cohesion that exists 1 to 15 when you are on the pitch together battling an opponent.

KC: Do you think you will continue playing rugby once you have finished college?
AL: Without a doubt! I am a rugby player at heart, and I can’t imagine not playing and getting that rush. I will have a lot more commitments on my time with operational requirements in the Army, but I will try to make time when and where I can to play rugby.

KC: Who have been the biggest influences in your career?
AL: My father Lowell Locke, Jim Wolfinger, Mark Bullock, Mike Tolkin, LTC Brian Mennes, and Rich Pohlidal. In order, they pretty much track my career from 4th grade through high school to now.

KC: What’s your opinion on the state of American rugby?
AL: It’s too hard to keep up with all the shuffling of the top management, but I prefer to look bottom-up evaluating USA Rugby. Still need more grassroots programs to introduce the game and develop players at a young age.

We also need to move away from the All American model for collegiate players. We have this fixation on it because it fits in nicely with other NCAA athletics. We should keep it possibly as an all star team because it is marketable and Americans will be able to easily understand the concept. However, it does not align with other nations in terms of preparation for the national team. There should be a funnel to the national team. We are on the right track with a new U-17 on to U-19 team. Other players and I had been identified as having talent and were on the U-19 team. However, when we had gotten too old, we were basically cast to the wind and required to appear on the radar again at Men’s or Collegiate’s NASC. This is hardly ideal to keep developing early identified rising talent. Either a U-21 team that takes players from U-19, or a U-20 team that combines the both is needed. Then players can move onto Super League, NA4, or overseas contracts, and eventually the Eagles. As it is now, there is no clear funnel, and the programs are disjointed.

Overall, we need more accountability at the club level. We have to join the transformation to more professional rugby where each team adopts a code of conduct and adheres to it. Until we clean up the image and reputation of rugby, we will keep struggling to get sponsors (besides beer companies), making a move to a professional league in the USA near impossible.

KC: Would you like to represent the USA Eagles at any stage?
AL: I was fortunate to represent the U-19 National Team in high school and loved it. It has always been a dream to play for the Eagles, but with my military commitment after I graduate, I will just have to see what happens. Having said that, after playing at NA4, I think I need more time at venues like that or playing for a Super League team before I make that jump. The pace is just so much faster, and I am fooling myself thinking I can jump right into that.

KC: Thanks Andrew, good luck and hopefully I’ll see you in an Eagles jersey one day.
AL: Thanks Kent

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