NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – They have had a rugby program since 1976, but New Mexico Tech never got a berth into the Collegiate Rugby Championship until the 2021 season. They are the only New Mexico team that will play in the open championship tournament held in New Orleans, Louisiana from May 29 through May 31.
The 6-0 Miners are led by second-year coach Gearoid Dunbar, who is probably one of the youngest coaches in the country at 26 years old. With that youth, he had brought a colossal dose of confidence that the Miners have fully embraced. The Division 3 Miners are feeling good about the tournament and it doesn’t matter who they are playing. They expect to face a division 1 team.
“We’re expecting, you know, to go out there and first game to be a dog fight,” said Dunbar. “We don’t want an easy walk-through. We want to come out and show that we belong here. Yes, it was COVID and it was a little bit easier to get here this year. That doesn’t matter. We belong with the big boys and we want to stay.”
Miners captain and winger Elijah Naranjo believes his team might be at a disadvantage in size, but once again it does not matter to the very confident Miners. “You got these big kids from D-1 schools that are huge, but I think that plays in our favor,” said Naranjo. “We got some small guys that can hit and some run.” The plan for the Miners is to move to Division 1 next season.
Coach Dunbar came to the school with a plan to make the program a winning one and so far it has worked. The school administration has been very supportive of the program and has upgraded facilities to keep them competitive.
“When I first got here, the training facilities weren’t really up to my standards,” said Dunbar. “I come from playing at a high level in Ireland and then coaching with a professional team in Ireland. We had a four-year plan of when we’d like to get things done. A lot of that was construction around the gym and the facilities we have. COVID happened and shut everything down. It gave us the opportunity to renovate everything.”
Next for the Miners, is their final game of the regular season. The Miners play Santa Fe Men’s Club Saturday.