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James Rivers becomes the highest draft pick in the program's history, going 10th overall. (Photo credits: Linda Brothers)

August 28- Arizona Men's Rugby had a bit of history last week with two standouts being selected in Major League Rugby's draft on national television.


Arizona captain James Rivers makes history as the highest draft pick for the program since the league was launched, going 10th overall to the San Diego Legion. Rivers follows in the footsteps of Ryan Matyas and Kyle Rogers in joining the Legion, annually one of the league's top sides. "Being drafted by San Diego has been a huge honor, not only because they are the best in the West but also because of the vast amount of experience in their coaching staff and player pool" said the 6-6 Lock. "It's an unbelievable feeling as it was one of the goals I set for myself. I am extremely excited to get to San Diego and to get stuck in." 


Joining Rivers in the historic night on Fox Sports was Abe Turpen, with the openside flanker going 22nd overall to the Utah Warriors. Only a junior, getting drafted early was a special moment. "It makes me feel like all the hard work I have done here in Arizona has paid off. It also raises the expectation of my play this coming year, which I fully embrace. I have a lot of personal development goals and I believe our team is equipped to make a deep run for the national championship, so that will be a massive goal of mine before I move on to professional rugby" said Turpen. For the Idaho native the selection is a futures pick, granting the Warriors his rights but allowing him to return to Tucson for his senior season.


"Professional Rugby is raising the standard by giving our athletes a league to strive for and I'm so proud of Abe and James. They are two first-class people and players, and I'm thankful to both Utah and San Diego for the opportunity they've given our boys. I also want to recognize the role that our alums have played, with everyone from Ryan Matyas (San Diego), Bronson Teles (Dallas), Kyle Fulton (Dallas), and Mason Pedersen (Seattle) reaching out and serving as a mentor for our boys aiming to take that next step" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy.


What the future holds for these two will be watched closely by Arizona fans, with the Wildcats recently finalizing a strong 2023 recruiting class. Many of those will aim to follow in the footsteps of Rivers, Turpen, Matyas, and the many other Wildcats who have gone on to play in the league.


"To all players looking to enter the draft and reach the MLR, continue to put in the hard work and know that there will be ups and downs but to stick at it because if you want it enough it will happen and persistence pays off" said Rivers.


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