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Since it’s inception on January 11th, 2014, Life West has dominated everywhere they have been. After winning the 2015 Division II Club National Championship, Life West will test itself once again by moving up to play in the Division I of the Northern California Rugby Football Union this January. To further prove they are ready for DI, Life West put up 61 points against the San Diego Old Aztecs this past weekend in the Jarrod Faul Cup. All DI clubs should be prepared because Life West is ready to put the rest of the country on notice.The Hayward, Ca. club has had a rocket rise through the ranks of club rugby after starting in Division III less than two years ago. In 2014, the Gladiators tore through the their opponents, but unfortunately, lost to Old Blue in the National Championship. Believing they had surpassed the competition level of DIII, Life West graduated to Division II and they did the same thing. Using size, speed, and a tremendous amount of experience, Life West went undefeated once again and ultimately beat Wisconsin to win the 2015 DII Club National Championship.Life West is expected to make immediate impact in DI, but head coach Adriaan Ferris considers the step up another challenge to tackle. After playing professionally in New Zealand and Europe, Coach Ferris brought his experience as the assistant coach of the ‘Ikale Tahi Tongan National Team and the head coach of the Northland ITM Cup Team in New Zealand to Life West as the Director of Rugby and Head Coach.With six coaches on staff, the move from DII to DI was, according to Ferris, “a progressive step and a graduated growth to where we want to be as a club. We want to be a multi-tier, multi-team club.” Along with the DI side, Life West retained it’s DII team and routinely has over 70 players in attendance at practices.

Coach Ferris expects big contributions from the impact players on his roster. No. 8 David Tameilau takes over for Nili Latu, who left to play professionally for Newcastle in the UK. Tameilau was recently sent to Taranaki (NZ) by USA Rugby where he spent time learning and playing for the Taranaki Development team. His younger brother, Maka, also joins the club playing tighthead prop. Standout players, such as scrumhalf Devereaux Ferris, wing Tyler Hutchinson, fullback Tyler Harrison, and former Blues super player Orene Ai’i are anticipated to make significant impressions this season.

Coach Ferris’s philosophy is focusing on getting the processes correct. “At the end of the day, we focus more on making sure we do things well regardless of the outcome. That’s easier said than done, but for us, we are really process driven. Whether or not we play a team that is weaker, it doesn’t matter what the score is, we make sure we do everything well. Everything is relative.”

Not much has changed from moving up in divisions beside more players wanting to play and the internal competition for who is selected for DI. “The main thing that has changed is there is more competition in places for starting spots,” Ferris said. “We’ve got quite a few new players come to the club and want to have a crack at playing on the top side… We’re a merit-based team, so if you work hard, players will get opportunities. That’s all I ask for and that’s all I want from my players. If you do the work, work out enough, and perform well on the field and in training, you put yourself in a firm spot for selection.”

As for the 61-10 preseason victory against the San Diego Old Aztecs for the Jarrod Faul Cup, Coach Ferris used the game as a checkpoint. “For me, it was to see where we are at. There were some pleasing aspects with ball movement and the conditioning at the phase of the season is where I want it to be. Realistically, we are not going to take too much out of the game. It’s only the start and we are nowhere near where we want to be by the end of the season.”

Coach Ferris was main takeaway from the game was the ability to stick to the attack structure. “I’m pretty keen on making sure that we follow a system and for the first 40 minutes we certainly did that. We didn’t score until after 13 minutes. The Old Aztecs really applied pressure and their line speed was really good, which is what we wanted. But, we stayed calm, built phases, and we didn’t just try to perform miracles. We focused on applying pressure and sustaining pressure through our runners and our playmakers.”

For the upcoming 2016 season, Life West will join the ranks of the South Division of NorCal with the likes of East Palo Alto Razorbacks, East Palo Alto Bulldogs, and Santa Rosa. The Razorbacks were undefeated last season, but were dismissed early in the National Playoffs. Reflecting on the completion of the NorCal, Ferris said, “All of the teams in the NorCal have high quality players. In terms of the teams that we’re going to be playing, they are going to be more equipped to play at this level and that’s what we’re preparing us for. We expect to be challenged immensely and we wouldn’t expect anything less.”

The sky is the limit for Life West in 2016. “What we’re looking forward to is I believe we are stronger that we were last year and we had a pretty decent team last year,” Ferris exclaimed. “At the end of the day, last year was last year. What we got to do this year is put points on the board and your currency is the way you perform and your attitude at training and on the field.”

Photo credit: Jay Coulter