For any sports person, competing at the highest level is the dream. For one BYU rugby player, that dream became a reality.
After helping the BYU rugby team to its second national title in four years and an undefeated season, geography major Shaun Davies was added to the national USA Eagles rugby squad for its June Internationals — a tournament where the U.S. national team plays against other nations such as Italy, Canada and Georgia.
To play for your country is the highest honor in world rugby.
“As a kid you always dream of playing international rugby, and I was finally able to realize that dream this summer,” Davies said.
Playing for the national team is comparable to playing for the U.S. soccer or basketball team. Once you’re in, your spot is not guaranteed; it’s a week-in, week-out assessment of how you’ve been playing.
Davies was able to obtain his first cap as an international player by getting game time against a very capable Georgia team who went down to the Eagles, 36–20.
To be in a team with so much experience — many of the Eagles play professionally overseas — while still attending college is a feat not many have achieved.
“It was such a great learning experience, and it was really good to see the level I would like to compete at one day and the player I aspire to be,” Davies said.
Being in a national team is sometimes cutthroat; players can be in the team one day and then gone the next.
“It means I have to really be on top of my game week-in and week-out simply because the best players are chosen every week,” Davies said. “There is always someone nipping at your heels.”
Davies is also in another minority at BYU. First, he is South African, and second, he is a not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was able to qualify for the national team by being in the U.S. for over three years.
“Being in this environment has definitely been a plus,” Davies said. “There are a lot less distractions than other universities face, and that allows me to concentrate on my rugby and schooling. If it wasn’t for the rugby team, I wouldn’t have been able to get used to such a culture shock because the guys are just really willing to help out.”
Davies’ success should not come as a surprise. As a member of the Cougar’s rugby team, Davies achieved many milestones in the sport, such as being a four-time All-American and the highest point scorer in the team for the last five years running.
“Coming from South Africa, I didn’t realize so many doors would be opened (for) my future,” Davies said.
After the success of the June Internationals, Davies, along with BYU rugby captain Ryan Roundy, was added to the USA Sevens Development Team. Sevens rugby is a form of the game with seven-minute halves and seven players per team, making the game very fast and high scoring. This form of rugby has been added to the Olympics in Rio 2016, and the development team is a squad of players expected to be available to compete there.
“Playing alongside Shaun is always a great experience,” Roundy said. “He always seems to make us all look good on the field.”
Playing in the next Rugby World Cup is also another goal Davies hopes to tick off his list.
“The Rugby World Cup is the third most watched sporting event worldwide, behind the Summer Olympics and the Soccer World Cup,” he said. “Playing in front of a worldwide audience of billions would be amazing.”
Davies’ skill and leadership qualities have helped the BYU rugby team become the most winningest team at BYU and the only one to win two Division One national titles.
“Shaun has the ability to change a game, especially when it’s tight,” BYU rugby Coach David Smyth said. “All the little extras he does off the field really add to his dynamic and show the other players what is necessary to play at the top.”
Davies plans on marrying his girlfriend, then finding out what the future holds.
“I’m just going to get my degree and then concentrate on rugby,” he said. “Hopefully more opportunities come for me to play in the national team and then we will go from there. Obviously family comes first, though, so once we are married and settled here in Utah, then we will see.”
Although he may be graduating shortly, Davies is adamant his time here at BYU will always be close to his heart.
“It has been such an honor to play here at BYU, and no matter where rugby takes me I will always bleed blue,” he said.