Mathieu brings national experience to rugby club

Isaac Hunt

Experience from a member of a national team is somewhat rare for most college varsity sports programs, let alone a club team.

The rugby club team at Iowa State is, for the most part, under the radar on campus, but the squad hopes to make it on a bigger stage with a national-qualifying tournament lined up for Sept. 22.

Although most of the squad is used to playing the 15-man version of the game, the tournament is seven-man play.

“It gives you a bid to go to Pittsburgh and play in a round of 16,” said assistant coach Kurt Willms. “It’ll be aired on NBC, like it was last year, and that would be a huge deal for us.”

With little team experience in the seven-man game, Falbriard Mathieu might turn into Iowa State’s secret weapon.

Mathieu, who goes by just “Matt,” started playing the sport of rugby six years ago. He worked his way up to the seven-man Swiss national team and is now a Cyclone.

While he might have the international experience, Mathieu still sees himself as just another part of the team.

“I heard they haven’t been playing [seven-man] rugby for long,” Mathieu said. “I hope to bring experience and maybe tips. If the other team is playing better, then there are things we can do to manage that.”

Mathieu complimented the team on their physical style of play but said if they want to make it to Pittsburgh, they may need some improvement on their overall style of play.

“They are really fit,” Mathieu said. “They work really hard, and I am pretty impressed with that. They work at least as hard as we do with the Swiss squad. They’re good guys and it is good to train with them.

“We haven’t played much [seven-man], but we need to use more of the field. It’s a very different game than 15-man. I think we have to learn how to use the whole field. Not playing seven-player like 15 player, that’s the main [thing].”

Willms said Mathieu was “the whole package” in that he’s fit, runs fast, tackles well and can handle the ball as well as having a good boot.

“As a first-year coach I don’t know a lot about the sevens game,” Willms said. “He’s been a good resource.”

Mathieu has yet to vocalize a lot of leadership, but the team’s captain said he leads by example.

“You can tell he’s got experience,” said Cody Burbach. “He is a little bit more quiet, but he has leadership on the field. He doesn’t vocalize it, but you can see him. He shows other people how they should act and how they should perform.”

With new players like Mathieu, returning players and strong leadership from players and coaches alike, Iowa State might surprise some of its competition in 2012.