Hagen Schulte Ahead Of Utah’s Old Glory Challenge
Written by Joe Harvey | Photos by Davey Wilson
When Hagen Schulte signed with the Utah Warriors back in November of 2019, the name would have struck a chord with plenty of USA rugby fans. It was two years prior that the Warriors fly-half made his international debut for Germany against the Eagles in a first ever meeting between the two nations.
Playing for 72 minutes in that 17-46 loss for Germany, it was Schulte’s performances in an international jersey that put him in the picture for a move to Major League Rugby. Eight months after his debut, Schulte represented Germany in back-to-back qualifiers against Samoa as he and his teammates tried to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the first time in the nation’s history.
Unable to get positive results against the Pacific Islanders, Schulte’s efforts did not go unnoticed by Samoa’s backs coach, Chris Latham. Following Samoa’s World Cup campaign in Japan, Latham was instated as the Head Coach of Utah and got in contact with the New Zealand-born German to recruit him for his team.
Now that Latham is no longer with the team, Schulte remains very much a major part of the Warriors machine. Starting in four of Utah’s games in the curtailed 2020 MLR season, the 28-year-old has started in each of his team’s six games this season, using every experience that he has gained over the years to help guide his team to third in the Western Conference at this early stage of the season.
Describing himself as ‘settled’ in Utah, following his re-signing with Utah in the offseason, it confirmed that Schulte will be staying with a team for more than two years for the first time in his senior career.
Having represented Buller in his native Christchurch, as well Marist Albion, Schulte moved to the Northern Hemisphere to firstly represent the Glasgow Warriors in Scotland, then Heidelberger RK in Germany and then CSM Bucuresti in Romania before making the move to MLR.
The last time we saw Utah in action, they were leaving the Zions Bank Stadium following a 50-43 win over Houston. But instead of looks of delight as the players left the field to get changed and go home, a grimace of frustration could instead be seen.
Their victory was of course a great one, fantastic for neutrals watching from afar in different teams’ jersey’s, but Schulte and his teammates left with more to work on than not. Up until that game, the most points Shawn Pittman had conceded was 31 (against San Diego Legion in a 31-29 loss), with the German international believing that the changes following on from that victory were relatively simple.
“That was really frustrating for us,” Schulte said. “Although we won, we were bitterly disappointed. You shouldn’t score 50 points and almost lose. Defense is a massive work on for us, it is easy fixes, but we know the positive thing is we know we can score points, so it is about turning those points into good victories.”
Having had a bye-week last weekend, Schulte and his teammates will be raring to go for the visit of Old Glory this weekend. Ranking third in the Western Conference with 19 points, there has been no movement following the weekend’s results with Utah just two points from a second-placed Austin.
“We have come out of a bye and we are still third, so I think we are pretty fortunate there,” Schulte explained. “For us, we are pretty lucky that we have managed to pick up bonus points in our losses, so that has probably kept us up where we are. It is a tough one to call.
“Everyone has beaten everyone this year and one minute a team looks like they are the bee’s knees and then they drop a couple. For us, what is really important now is that we have got a home game against DC and that we pick up that win before a few on the road.
“If we can pick up a couple of those up as well, I think we will be in a good place in the West Conference.”
PLAYING IN FRONT OF THE WARRIOR NATION
This weekend will see Utah play in front of their home crowd for the last time until the end of May and the loud locals will be sorely missed. They are one of the few teams allowing fans into venues because of the varying COVID-19 restrictions in different States.
Allowing an 80 percent capacity at the Zions Bank Stadium, the supporters have been on hand to will the side to victory in their wins over Houston and Toronto in 2021.
“Here in Utah, we have a good fanbase and our stadium is at 80 percent at the moment and all those tickets are sold,” Schulte said. “We have a decent crowd that are very loud, so it is probably quite intimidating for teams coming here.
“So, we have got to make the most of that whilst we have got the opportunity, because by the end of the season everyone else could have their fans and when you go away it makes things a bit harder for you.”
Old Glory DC arrive in Utah as the bottom placed side in the East Conference. Dropping down to that position following defeat at the hand of the LA Giltinis. But despite the 47-17 loss, Andrew Douglas’ team are just six points from top-place team Rugby United New York in the East.
In the next round, Utah will be making the journey to the West Coast in order to play the Giltinis, but before then it is an encounter with Old Glory that had full attention from the men who will be wearing black and red.
“I think they are a really good team,” Schulte said. “I watched their game against LA, and I was actually a bit disappointed in how that ended up for them because I really thought they’d have a good crack.
“They pose a lot of threats across the board, a couple of really decent forwards, their half-back combination is probably one of the better ones in the competition, so there is definitely a lot of players to watch and as a team they are very good, and we haven’t seen the best of them yet.”
MENTAL FITNESS POWERED BY WCF INSURANCE
- How do you define “being fit” both physically and mentally?
Being fit physically. I guess, is probably what you do off the field in the gym with the trainers and getting fit for the season. Mental is probably a personal thing, everyone uses different techniques mentally, whether that be visualization, some people do breathing techniques, you see a lot of the teams using breathing techniques now. For me, I do a lot of stretching, which is a form of meditation to me, so that would be the one thing I use to prepare for a game.
- On game days, how do you prepare mental clarity? / How important is it to prepare mentally for game days?
Preparing mentally for me, when I was quite a bit younger, I got myself a bit hyped up for games and being a fly-half, I could go into games a bit cloudy and making rash decisions, so as I have got older, I have tried to keep my morning routine pretty simple, pretty much like my everyday routine. That’s getting out of bed, having a coffee, having breakfast and then, like I said before, my biggest thing on gameday is that I will stretch for about an hour, which is like my own time, have my own music in and not really think about too much, just really focusing and loosening my body up for the game.
- Do you find that exercising or doing some form of physical activity helps you mentally?
Definitely. Because we are so active, I think if you sit around for too long doing nothing, you get itchy feet, so for us we do primers on gameday. That means we actually get moving, doing weights the morning of games, so I think we have to be moving a bit.
- How do you mentally overcome a tough loss and/or injury?
With a loss, I just think that you can’t change what has happened. So, there is no point in dwelling on it, obviously you address it on the Monday, but Tuesday onwards you are looking forward at how you can rectify that loss and win the weekends game. Then with injury, I think there is two ways you can go about it; you can dwell on it and let it affect you, or you can work to come back stronger. For myself, I have had enough injuries in my time where I actually wanted to be out there playing, but at the same time I used that as an opportunity to work on different parts of myself and coming back as a better playing and a better person.
- How do you contribute to your mental health on a daily basis?
For my mental wellness, I do a bit of gratitude in the morning which starts my day off really positive. Then, as I say, I stretch a lot, so working on myself a lot. That’s what I do.
HOW TO WATCH
This Saturday night the Utah Warriors host Old Glory DC at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The match will be nationally broadcasted live at 10:00 PM ET on Fox Sports 2 and fans outside the United States can watch the game for free on The Rugby Network.
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