Taking the pads off: Posten uses football experience to excel in rugby

Andrew Towne/TORRINGTON TELEGRAM University of Wyoming senior Josh Posten (center) carries the ball down the field trying to avoid Utah State defenders in the first half of Saturday’s rugby match in Laramie.

LARAMIE – Josh Posten missed the physical nature of sports.

However, when he was approached about joining the University of Wyoming Cowboy rugby team, he hesitated.

The 2019 Torrington High School graduate wanted to lay low and focus on academics.

“They’ve been asking me since I was a freshman or sophomore,” he said. “Finally, I was like, I miss hitting. I decided to give it a try. I’ve liked it ever since.”

This season marks his second year playing for the Cowboys and he has taken to the new sport very easily.

“It brings me back to my roots, and that’s why I got into it. Growing up on football and playing a little bit of college ball here and there. Coming here, it just got me back in my groove. I love hitting people. I love the aggressive part of it.”

Transition from football 

to rugby

With his experience as a running back, both at the high school and college level, UW coach David Finnoff was able to easily fit him into the lineup as a wing player, allowing him to utilize his speed out on the edges.

“The transition wasn’t hard for me. Coach David Finnoff saw my talent coming in, and he knew I was rusty, and I had never played before,” Posten said. “He took what I was good at and put me the in best position to be successful.”

Posten said there are similarities between football and rugby.

“It’s a team sport, just like football. Now that I’ve played it, it’s the ultimate team sport, right alongside football,” he said. “From there, it’s just repetition. It’s more repetition than anything and building a chemistry with the team. If your whole team isn’t playing well, it falls apart. You saw some of the plays today, you have to trust the guys next to you because it’s 15-on-15.”

In fact, Posten described the transition as easy.

“It’s easy to pick up on,” he said. “I would encourage everyone to give it a try if they aren’t going on to play collegiate sports.”

The rugby team

“Rugby is a very strategical sport,” Posten said. “What I like about it is, it’s becoming more well known in the United States. It’s more of a Europe sport.”

He hopes it continues to become more popular in the United States.

The team is comprised of 15 players on each side of the field, and the jersey number of the players represent what position and where they play on the rugby pitch.

“You have your front eight,” Posten said. “Those are your forwards, and those are the guys you see in the scrums and on the lineouts doing the lifting that happens on penalties, when the ball is kicked into touch within the opponents 22 (yard line).

“The nine is our scrum half,” Posten added. “He’s the guy you see picking up the ball from the scrum (a method of restarting play in rugby that involves players packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball) and dishing it out to the back line.”

Then the player wearing the No. 10 jersey is a key leader of the team’s offensive attack.

“He is the one who calls the plays, the quarterback of the offense if you are looking at a football aspect,” Posten said.

Then, the offense revolves around players No. 12 and 13.

“They are your centers, and they make everything go,” Posten said.

Numbers 11 and 14 are the players on the outside, and Posten wears the No. 11 for the Cowboys.

“Then you have your quick guys, the guys that make things happen on the outside,” Posten said. “That’s your 11 and 14. Then you have the guy, 15, who is playing back most of the game, covering kicks and making sure they don’t counter us.”

Comeback victory

On Saturday, Oct. 8, those 15 Wyoming rugby players mounted a second-half comeback to post a 29-26 win over the Utah State Aggies.

UW scored five tries – a rugby equivalent to a touchdown – which are worth five points each, adding two successful kicks – which are two points apiece.

Through the first 40 minutes of play, Utah State led 21-0, but over the final 40 minutes, the Cowboys outscored the Aggies 29-5.

Posten attributed the comeback from a fire which was lit under the team in the second half.

“We had Cole Williams go down with a concussion, and when one of our guys goes down, we rally around him. We are all brothers on this team. That put a new fire under us.”

During the second half rally, Posten even scored a try for the Pokes, aiding in the comeback.

This week, Wyoming hosts the No. 3-nationally ranked BYU Cougars on Saturday, Oct. 15.

“That’ll be a big one on the home pitch,” Posten said. “They are a tough team, but it’ll say a lot about our toughness. It’s a tough sport. It gives you a new appreciation for taking care of your body. You are doing the same hitting you would in football without the pads. It’ll prove our toughness. They just beat (Colorado State University), who we just previously lost to. They are always at nationals giving a tough run.”

Whatís next?

Posten’s time in Laramie is quickly coming to an end. He will graduate in December with a degree in kinesiology and health promotion, but he hopes his playing days aren’t over yet.

“I’ve actually received an offer to continue rugby, and it will help pay for grad school,” Posten said. “We’ll see if it’s the path I take.”

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