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Forge Rugby Announces 2024 Scholarship Winners

The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club Scholarship Committee is proud to announce the 2024 recipients of the Neal R. Brendel Scholarship: Jillian Orseno, Mason Steed and Philip Storti.

Jillian Orseno | 2024 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Jillian graduated from Deer Lakes High School and has been a member of the North Pitt United Rugby Club for 4 years. She has also played for the West Pittsburgh Foxes and the ARU U-19 program. She will attend Emory & Henry University to study biology in the fall. Jillian’s leadership and dedication to rugby made her an ideal choice for this award.

Mason Steed | 2024 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Mason is a graduate of Moon Area High School. He began playing rugby in 6th grade with the West Pittsburgh flag program and was captain of the Moon rugby team during his junior and senior years. He plans to continue playing at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he will major in Safety Science. His commitment to rugby and leadership skills make him a clear choice for this year’s Brendel Scholarship award.

Philip Storti | 2024 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Philip is a graduate of Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School, where he discovered rugby during his freshman year. He has played both second row and prop as a starter for Central Catholic. Philip thrived playing rugby and he will attend Fairfield University in the fall to continue his journey. He will major in both mechanical and electrical engineering.

Please join us in congratulating the recipients of the 2024 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship! The Pittsburgh Forge wishes Jillian, Mason and Philip good luck and we are looking forward to seeing how their rugby journeys unfold.

Pittsburgh Forge Rugby announces Seth Erwin as Men’s 7s Rugby Coach

[PITTSBURGH, PA] — The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is excited to announce that Seth Erwin has been appointed Head Coach of the Men’s Qualifying 7s side for the Summer 2024 season.

Seth is the current Head Coach of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Men’s Program and widely considered one of the best rugby coaches in Western Pennsylvania. He has led his team to two NCR Division II 7s National Championships (2022, 2023) as well as an XVs National Championship in 2023. Prior to his success at IUP, Seth directed and coached the Kiski Valley Titans U-19 program where he won two Pennsylvania State Championships in 2016 and 2019. Seth brings a wealth of knowledge in both the XVs and 7s codes as well as a history of developing young players into high performing athletes.

This year’s Men’s 7s program looks to build off the tremendous success of last summer where a young Forge squad competed well in the Midwest 7s Series, considered one of the best competitions in the country. In 2024, under the direction of Seth, and with inclusion from great area 7s programs like Wheeling University (2024 Premier National Champions), Slippery Rock University (2024 Small College National Champions) and of course, IUP (2022 and 2023 National Champions, 3rd Place in 2024), the Forge strives to raise their level of success and compete at USA Club Rugby Nationals.

This year, the Midwest 7s Series will feature the following stops:

  • Round 1: Saturday, June 15, 2024 – Cin City 7s in Cincinnati, OH
  • Round 2: Saturday, June 29, 2024 – Midwest Crossover Event in Lemont, IL
  • Round 3: Saturday, July 13, 2024 – Mid-Michigan 7s in Lansing, MI
  • Round 4: Saturday, July 27, 2024 – Midwest 7s Championship in Elkhart, IN
  • USA Club Rugby National Championship – Saturday, August 10 – Sunday, August 11, 2024, in Madison, WI

Training will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays beginning on June 3, 2024. Practice will be held at Phillip Murray Field located at 725 Mountain Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15210 near Pittsburgh’s historic Southside. Training will be from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM each day and will not conflict with the Forge’s popular Summer Touch Program on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Interested players should plan to attend a practice.

Please feel free to submit your information on our online registration form here.

Pittsburgh Forge Looking to Hire Assistant Coaches

[PITTSBURGH, PA] — The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club (PFRC) is seeking Assistant Coaches for our men’s sides. An Assistant Coach is expected to make a commitment of time, energy, and effort to the development of players on our Club.

For the fall season, which runs from mid-August through mid-November, the Club is expecting to operate five (5) sides, four (4) of which play a competitive league schedule within the Midwest Rugby Union. Our competitive sides include Men’s Divisions 1, 3, and 4. Our teams typically train twice per week during the evening with our top sides playing an eight-game schedule and our men’s lower-division sides play approximately 5- 8 matches depending on league playoffs. Locations for matches are typically in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Some trips to Chicago are not out of the question.

In the spring, which runs from mid-March through mid-May, our teams continue to train twice per week but usually books a more social or developmental schedule consisting of matches and tournaments against opponents not seen during league play. If a team or side earns a bid to USA Club Rugby Playoffs/ Nationals, those matches would also be held in the spring.

Assistant Coaching Role
Assistant Coaches are expected to assist in leading a team and provide development to all players, regardless of level or skill. Additionally, Assistant Coaches must work with each side within their respective team to implement the same game strategy across all divisions.

Assistant Coach Requirements:

  • World Rugby Level 1 Coach (formerly L200) Certification is required; World Rugby Level 2 Coach (formerly L300) is preferred.
  • Work within, and be able to aid in the development of, the scheme designed by each team’s respective Head Coach, and duly administer the game plan and tactics to players.
  • Ability to develop players at all skill levels and create match strategies.
  • Must be able to function independently as a game manager in the absence of the Head Coach when a lower-side match is time or location differs from the higher side or sides.
  • Must be able to coach both forward and backline players.
  • Must attend training and matches on a regular basis.
  • Must have strong leadership and effective communication skills.

Club offerings for Assistant Coaches:

  • A seasonal stipend commensurate with experience.
  • An atmosphere of competitive players willing to constantly learn and develop.
  • An opportunity to work renowned and professional Head Coaches.
  • A large alumni network for professional connections. *
  • A professionally administrated club with an active Board of Directors.

If interested, applicants are asked to submit the following information via email to club@pghrugby.com:

  • In your email, please provide a brief introduction of yourself.
  • Rugby resume.
  • Professional resume.
  • At least one (1) rugby-related reference.
  • Explanation of coaching style, preferred strategies, and any additional information you deem necessary to share.

The Club is actively accepting applications. Qualified applicants can submit a resume and cover letter to club@pghrugby.com.

We will reach out to qualified applicants to schedule interviews. The PRFC thanks you in advance for your interest in coaching our teams and look forward to learning about what you can bring to our Club.

Sincerely,

PFRC Coaching Committee
club@pghrugby.com

* Coaching is a commitment and other factors affect your ability to honor that obligation. PRFC can supply access to our professional network to assist in job placement if necessary. Please inform us if you require such assistance to be able to coach a team for the Forge. The need for outside employment will not be considered as a basis to be hired as an Assistant Coach.

Forge Rugby Announces 2023 Scholarship Winners

The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club Scholarship Committee is proud to announce the 2023 recipients of two inaugural scholarship programs:

Gabby Holtz, Lukas Maasikas and Callie Rautenbach have been selected as the awardees of the Neal R. Brendel Scholarship. Additionally, Alec Harbison has been selected as the recipient of the Mark W. Davis Scholarship for West Allegheny students.

Gabby Holtz | 2023 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Gabby graduated from West Allegheny High School and is one of the founding members of the West A Girls Rugby program. She has participated in both the ARU and Midwest U-19 programs. Gabby’s initiative and leadership skills make her an ideal choice for this scholarship award. She will attend Ohio State University in the fall as a pre-med major.

Lukas Maasikas | 2023 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Lukas is a graduate of West Allegheny High School where he earned first team starting roles in most, if not all, of his time with the team. Lukas served as a role model for his teammates in his play and dedication. He earned the role of Vice Captain in his junior year, and Captain in his senior year as voted on by his teammates. He plans to continue playing at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall. His commitment and dedication make him a clear choice for this year’s Brendel Scholarship award.

Callie Rautenbach | 2023 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Callie is a graduate of North Allegheny High School. Callie began playing rugby at a young age in the UK prior to her family moving to Pittsburgh. She led North Pitt United to the RugbyPA D2 Western Championship this spring. Callie has played and held the role of captain for North Pitt United, West Pitt, Hawkeyes and Celtic Barbarians. She has played across the country and internationally. She plans to continue playing at Penn State University in the fall. Callie’s dedication to rugby and leadership skills make her an excellent choice for this award.

Alec Harbison | Mark W. Davis Scholarship Recipient

Alec graduated from West Allegheny High School and was their starting #8 during the team’s 2023 season. Alec is a role model for his peers and leads by example. His behavior on and off the field consistently aligned with West Allegheny’s club code of conduct – “Class & Dignity” making him an excellent choice for this year’s Davis Scholarship.  Alec will continue his academic and rugby career this fall at Slippery Rock University.

Please join us in congratulating the recipients of the 2023 Neal R. Brendel and Mark W. Davis Scholarships! The Pittsburgh Forge wishes Gabby, Lukas, Callie and Alec the best and we eagerly await to see how their rugby journeys unfold.

Forge Men Announce U23 Academy Programming for Spring 2023

[PITTSBURGH, PA] – After a fantastic inaugural 2022 season that saw trips to Washington DC and Nashville, the Forge are excited to launch our second year of Men’s U23 Academy programming with a Home match to take place in May 2023! This spring, the academy will be open to any male player born in 2000 or after who is interested in high-performance rugby against other academies and age-grade select sides.

This spring, the Forge are thrilled to announce the program’s first home match as the side will be hosting the Wisconsin U23 Selects at Phillip Murray Field on Saturday, May 20, 2023. Phillip Murray Field is the home of the Forge’s Senior sides and is located at 725 Mountain Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15210.

Players are asked to preregister for the program here: https://forms.gle/qXAqhEuCgHJvFfxx6 and attend one of two open tryouts. The first Open Tryout will be Saturday, March 18, 2023 in partnership with the Allegheny Rugby Union as part of the Regional 7s Qualifier at Indiana University of PA in Indiana, PA. The time for that tryout will be announced shortly. The second Open Tryout event will be hosted at Phillip Murray Field on Sunday, April 2, 2023 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET.

After the open tryouts, a roster will be selected for the match and those players will be required to attend two (2) additional training sessions at Phillip Murray Field. The dates for these sessions will be Sunday, April 23rd and Sunday, May 7th. Prior to the match, players will also be requested to attend one final “walk-through” session on Thursday, May 18th at a time and location to be determined in Pittsburgh.

The entire Spring 2023 season is listed below:

  • Saturday, March 18, 2023 – Tryout #1 (Indiana, PA)
  • Sunday, April 2, 2023 – Tryout #2 (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Sunday, April 23, 2023 – Training Session #1 (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Sunday, May 7, 2023 – Training Session #2 (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Thursday, May 18, 2023 – Final Walk-Through (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Saturday, May 20, 2023 – Competition v. Wisconsin U23 Selects (Pittsburgh, PA)

There is no cost to try out for the Academy or participate in training sessions. For those players who are ultimately selected to compete, there will likely be a nominal tour fee since the match will be home. A hotel block will be set up for players competing from outside the immediate Pittsburgh-area. Players are not required to register with the Pittsburgh Forge, but are encouraged to do so, especially if they plan on playing Summer 7s with the Club. More details on these requirements will be announced at a later date.

The Academy will once again be coached by Allan Murray and Derek Neubauer. They led the program last season in which several players were called up to MLR Old Glory’s Academy as well as coaching an impressive win over USA Rugby South Panthers U23.

Questions should be directed to the email address mensu23@pghrugby.com. If any players are unable to attend one of the two Open Tryout sessions, they should complete the registration form and submit a coach’s recommendation to the above mentioned email address. Area coaches are welcome to send in recommendations as well.

Forge Men’s U23 Announces Fall 2022 Fixture

Forge U23 Players pose following the program’s inaugural match, which saw the Forge take on the Young Glory U23 Academy in May 2021 in Leesburg, VA, as a curtain-raiser for the Old Glory/Houston Sabercats MLR match.

[PITTSBURGH, PA] – The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is excited to offer Men’s U-23 Academy programming this fall. The academy is open to any male player born in 1999 and after who is interested in playing high-performance rugby against other academies and select sides from all over the country.

This fall’s competition is against USA Rugby South Panther Academy on Sunday, December 4, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. The specific kickoff time and field location for the match is still to be determined. 

Leading up to the match, the Forge has scheduled two (2) open tryouts followed by training sessions for players selected to compete in the match. The tryout and training sessions will be held at the Forge’s pitch, Phillip Murray Field located at 725 Mountain Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15210. The tryout and training schedule is listed below:

  • Tryout #1 – Sunday, October 16, 2022
  • Tryout #2 – Sunday, October 23, 2022
  • Training Session #1 – Sunday, November 6, 2022
  • Training Session #2 – Sunday, November 13, 2022
  • Training Session #3 – Saturday, December 3, 2022 (in Nashville)

There is no cost to try out for the Academy or attend any of the training events, however those selected to travel to the match in December will be asked to pay a modest Tour Fee to assist in expenses for the trip. Players are not required to register for the Forge but are strongly encouraged to do so. In lieu of registering for the Forge, a player must be either registered for a USA Rugby Club or pay a nominal fee for Participant Accident Coverage via USA Rugby’s Event Sanctioning. This fee is usually $10 – $15.

For this tour, the side will once again be coached by Allan Murray, former Forge Men’s Assistant and Head D2 Coach. Allan has a history of developing college-age athletes into effective, high-level rugby players. He will be joined by Forge Forward’s Coach Derek Neubauer, University of Pittsburgh Coach George Roscoe, and other area coaches and administrators. 

For more information, players should email the Program Manager, Bill Marnell at bill.marnell@gmail.com. Players who are interested in participating this fall should complete the registration survey here: https://forms.gle/8uzabmFCCYU69eVQ9 and plan on attending at least one of the Open Tryout Sessions. If a player is interested in participating, but cannot attend a tryout, they should complete the survey and email Bill Marnell with a coach’s recommendation instead. Area coaches are also welcome to email Bill Marnell with player recommendations as well.

Forge Rugby Announces 2022 Scholarship Winners

The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club Scholarship Committee is proud to announce the 2022 recipients of two inaugural scholarship programs:

Aubrie Sipes and Charlie Joe Rosemeyer have been selected as the awardees of the Neal R. Brendel Scholarship. Additionally, Santino Fischio has been selected as the recipient of the Mark W. Davis Scholarship for West Allegheny students.

Aubrie Sipes | 2022 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Aubrie graduated from Hollidaysburg High School and is one of the founding members of the Blair United Girls Rugby program. She has participated in various academy and select side rugby programs and led her team to the State Semifinals this spring. Aubrie was chosen for the Brendel Scholarship because of her passion, leadership skills, and her ability to make those around her better. She will attend Penn State University in the fall with the hope to continue playing as a Tight Head Prop.

Charlie Joe Rosemeyer | 2022 Neal R. Brendel Scholarship

Charlie Joe is a graduate of Penn Hills High School and in his sophomore year founded the school’s first rugby team, Big Red Rugby. He has grown up around rugby since his days in the Harlequin’s youth program and plans to continue playing at Sewanee: The University Of The South in the fall. His demonstrated leadership skills and academic accomplishments, as valedictorian of his class, made him a clear choice for this scholarship award.

Santino Fischio | Mark W. Davis Scholarship Recipient

Santino graduated from West Allegheny High School and served as the Scrumhalf and team captain for the boys rugby team. After the loss of late Coach Mark Davis, Santino displayed a readiness to do whatever was needed to continue what the program had built. He was selected this year because of his leadership, humility, and above all else, “Class & Dignity.” In the fall, he will continue with the sport of rugby at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Please join us in congratulating the recipients of the inaugural Neal R. Brendel and Mark W. Davis Scholarships! The Pittsburgh Forge wishes Aubrie, Charlie Joe, and Santino the best and we eagerly await to see how their rugby journeys unfold.

Forge Men Form U23 Academy

Forge winter Misha Shorin scores a try against Cincinnati RFC.
Forge winger Misha Shorin scores a try against Cincinnati RFC.

[PITTSBURGH, PA] – The Pittsburgh Forge Men’s side is elated to announce the formation of a U-23 Academy Side this spring. The Academy is open to any male player born in 1999 or after that’s interested in playing high-performance rugby against some of the best Academy and Select Sides in the country.

The program intends to schedule three to four fixtures annually during competition windows that won’t pull players from their home sides. For this spring, the Forge has secured an inaugural match against Major League Rugby’s Old Glory U23 Academy, aptly called “Young Glory U23”. The match is scheduled for Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Segra Field in Leesburg, VA and will curtain raise the MLR regular season match between Old Glory and the Houston Sabercats. Specifics for this match will be announced at a later date.

“This Academy provides a fantastic opportunity to college-age players in and around the greater Pittsburgh area to train at a high level and play elite competition outside of their university sides. These players will be exposed to the Forge’s robust and professional coaching staff and learn skills that they can take back to their home clubs and could potentially help propel these individuals into high-performance pathways,” Program Manager Bill Marnell explained.

Leading up to the match, the Forge has scheduled two (2) open tryouts followed by training sessions for players selected to compete in the match. All sessions will be held at the Forge’s pitch at Phillip Murray Field, conveniently located near Pittsburgh’s southside. The tryout and training schedule is listed below:

  • Sunday, March 27: Open Tryout from 12PM – 2PM
  • Sunday, April 10: Open Tryout from 12PM – 2PM
  • Sunday, May 1: Closed Training Session from 12PM – 2PM
  • Sunday, May 15: Closed Training Session from 12PM – 2PM
  • Thursday, May 19: Final Walk-Through from 6PM – 8PM

There is no cost to participate in the Academy or attend any training events but players who are selected to travel to the match in May will be asked to pay a modest tour fee to assist in expenses for the trip. Players are not required to register with the Forge but are strongly encouraged to do so. In lieu of registration with the Forge, a player must either be registered for a USA Rugby club or pay a nominal fee for Participant Accident Coverage via USA Rugby’s Event Sanctioning. This fee is usually $10 – $15.

For the spring of 2022, the program will be coached by Allan Murray who recently retired as the Forge Men’s Assistant Head Coach/ D2 Head Coach after several years of success. Allan has a history of developing college-age athletes into effective, high-level rugby players and will be joined by several other coaches from the Forge throughout the training sessions. More announcements are expected to be made soon regarding additions to the staff for the spring.

For more information, players should email Program Manager Bill Marnell at bill.marnell@gmail.com. Players who are interested in participating this spring should complete a general interest form here and plan on attending at least one (1) open tryout event. If a player is interested, but unable to attend a tryout event, he can complete the survey and email Bill Marnell a coach’s recommendation instead. Area coaches are also always welcome to email Bill Marnell with player recommendations as well.

Please stay posted for additional updates regarding this program and for future programming expansions from the Forge including a potential U23 Women’s Program soon.

Forge Women Approach Division 1 Playoffs with “Brake Lines Cut” Mentality

Forge Women after a momentous win in Cincinnati, 48-10.

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Pittsburgh Forge Women have secured a playoff position for the third consecutive competitive season!  Having been presented with a tremendous opportunity for success with the formation of the Midwest East Division 1/Division 2 Hybrid league, the Women entered the Fall of 2021 looking to make a statement in their return from the COVID-19 hiatus.  In a season which saw the Women matched up against old foes and new opponents alike, the Forge came out on top with an unblemished 4-0 record, with an impressive average margin of victory of 40.75 points per game!

However, this journey for the Forge Women began long before the Fall season kicked off. Their eyes have been focused on this opportunity since January, when they welcomed Head Coach Todd Fabec to the club. He understood the task at hand, and the potential that existed within the squad:

“I am honored to return home and have the opportunity to work with an outstanding club. The culture is spot on as the community shares and cares for one another. And, because the club has competed and won at the national level, there is a healthy balance to play fun, modern rugby. Coming through COVID-19 was quite a challenge. Yet, we did it smartly, took care of each other, and now find ourselves in really great shape moving forward. Both this season and beyond. It’s been awesome and I thank the community for giving me a chance to be a part.”

Nickole Burkett (Lock) charging through Detroit defense with support from teammates

The Forge were able to exercise their adaptability in navigating the return-to-play COVID-19 protocols that were in place to ensure player and supporter safety after the 2020 hiatus: Zoom meetings in January, indoor cohort-branched skill sessions in February, socially-distanced outdoor training in March… all of which were approached with avidity from the team.

In late spring, the women had their first chance to execute their new game plan and skillsets, with back-to-back friendlies against Harrisburg RFC and Rochester Renegades!  Though the Forge Women fell to Harrisburg after traveling east to square up in a friendly yet competitive match, the women were right back at it the following week , this time emerging victorious at home against the Rochester Renegades. Both of these friendly encounters provided insight on areas that required more focus and attention before the Fall rolled around, and not once did the Forge hesitate to do what was needed to continue improving their game, as Captain Holly “Ripper” Ramey said so well:

“At the beginning of the season, with a challenging new schedule ahead of us, we came together and decided we would push ourselves to the highest limits. That night, every single player made the commitment to give it their all. You saw it in players coming to training early to run skills work. You heard it in conversations with teammates about strategy and technique. And you felt it on the field when we played not for ourselves, but for each other. All of our hard work has led to this moment. And we’re ready.”

Outside Center Morgan Haggerty cuts past Columbus defense

The women paralleled their on-field work ethic with focused recruiting efforts, and are fortunate to have grown their team throughout the past year, with the culture of the club and the sport of rugby proving, yet again, that there is a place for everyone! The Forge are thankful for their newly acquired talents – some with various athletic backgrounds: powerlifting, soccer, roller derby, and football- all of which have unique subsets of skills which transfer over to rugby quite nicely. The team would not be where they are today without the obvious dedication of its players, both experienced and new. Captain Karina “Strokes” Sarver spoke to this full-club effort that lasted all season long:

“We are so proud of the work that every player has put in as the team prepared to execute the 2021 D1/D2 hybrid season. This fall, we were able to highlight our developmental side, our Gold squad, in two matches. They won both. The sanctioned side, our Black side, was able to win the league with a perfect record. Now, we get to ride this momentum into the D1 Midwest semifinal match that is going to be held on our home pitch. We have elevated each other to get here; it’s time to keep grinding, keep rising, and take care of business on November 6th.”

Jaisa “Twerk” Watkins breaking down to tackle a Buffalo player

The Forge capitalized on their roster depth all season, playing 23 women each match and consistently traveling with a loaded sideline of supporters as well. The team truly demonstrated their dynamism with no two rosters identical throughout the year. Within the new hybrid configuration, the women kicked-off their fall hosting Detroit (MI) and scored within the early phases of the match to seemingly set the tone for the entire season. Next, they traveled to Cincinnati (OH) to take on the Kelts and pulled off another meaningful win. In October, the women’s Black squad got to start the historic, rugby-filled Forge Day with a win over Buffalo (NY). Finally, they were off to Columbus to face the Squirrels (OH), who were also undefeated entering the match. By sticking to their game plan, the Forge triumphed once more and secured their place at the top of the Midwest East D1/D2, earning them a berth to the Midwest Division 1 playoffs!

As previously mentioned, the Forge were fortunate for the opportunity to feature their Gold side twice this fall – once at home to wrap up Forge Day against Kent State and once away against Columbus. Gold emerged victorious in both of these contests to accentuate the team’s undefeated record!

Next up for the Forge women are the Metropolis Valkyries (MN), seeded 2nd in the Division 1 West league, when on November 6th, the Forge will be hosting the Midwest Division 1 Semifinal as the higher ranked side! Be sure to show your support at Phillip Murray Field (725 Mountain Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA), with the action kicking off at 11:00am! The women have only been more dialed in with their training and show no signs of easing off the gas any time soon.

Forge Men Bolster Coaching Staff for Fall 2021

Above: The Forge Men returned to the pitch in April 2020 after a nearly 18-month hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Pittsburgh, PA] – The Pittsburgh Forge Rugby Club is excited to announce additions to the Men’s coaching staff for the 2021 – 2022 Competitive Cycle.  Alongside the Men’s top side promotion to the Midwest Premiership (Men’s Division 1) and the elevation of its second side into Midwest Division 2, the Men will also be fielding a third competitive side at the Division 3 level for the Fall of 2021, prompting the program to further bolster its coaching staff.  This expansion of programming and staff is a result of the continued growth of the club, with training sessions regularly exceeding fifty (50) players in attendance.  Read below about each member of the coaching staff who will lead the Forge Men throughout the Fall campaign and beyond! 


Forge Men’s Head/D1 Coach Steve Walsh has been leading the program since their inaugural season in the Fall of 2018. In his first season coaching the Men’s top side, Steve led the team to the D2 Midwest semi-finals. The following year, Steve coached the Men to an undefeated season, losing in the final minutes of the D2 Midwest Championship against perennial National Championship contender Wisconsin Rugby Club. The club’s strong performances over those two years earned them their promotion to the Midwest Premiership. 

Steve, a native of Australia, began playing rugby at a young age, eventually playing Rugby Union at the senior level for Randwick Rugby Club and playing Rugby League professionally for the South Sydney Rabbitohs beginning in 1980. Steve also began coaching at the Australian high school and collegiate levels throughout the 1980s (St. Aloysius, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and Alice Springs), before his playing career saw him move to France to play with Lyon OU and Anse XIII.  In the early 2000’s, Steve relocated to England where he coached at the St. John’s Beaumont School. He later moved to the United States where he would coach the Pittsburgh Harlequins and Pittsburgh Rugby Club. 

In 2020, Steve was selected to serve on the coaching staff of the Midwest Thunderbirds, an elite Selects program offering a pathway for senior men’s club players to professional rugby in the US.  Check out Coach Steve’s introductory press release as Men’s Head Coach for a more in depth read.


Like Steve, Allan Murray also began coaching the Forge Men’s side in 2018, serving for the past three years as the Assistant/D3 coach before ascending this Fall to the Division 2 level with the Forge’s second side. Al began playing rugby at Slippery Rock University, leading that side to three (3) consecutive ARU Championships while earning several selections to the ARU Collegiate Select Side during his tenure there. Following college, Al began playing under Steve Walsh at the Pittsburgh Harlequins and later with the Pittsburgh Rugby Club, before retiring as a full-time player in 2015. 

Al’s coaching career began in 2006 when he began assisting the West End Wandering Barbarians, continuing there through 2009. He then served as an assistant on the ARU Select Side as a Backs/Attack coach. Al would then coach the Woodland Hills U-19 program before joining the coaching staff at the University of Pittsburgh, where he would remain until 2018. Al has been pivotal in the success of the Forge Men’s side, and we look forward to his continued influence this Fall season.  To learn more about Al’s rugby career, visit the press release from his initial introduction to the Forge coaching staff. 


Joining Steve and Al on the coaching staff this year will be Des O’ConnorDerek Neubauer and Clark Hoopes

Assistant/D3 Coach Des O’Connor

Des O’Connor will be joining the staff as the Assistant/D3 coach and will be responsible for working with the club’s new and developing players. Des, a native of Ireland, began playing rugby at an early age for the Fethard National School and then high school rugby at Cistercian College Roscrea. Des attended University College Dublin where he competed regularly against senior men’s side clubs in Leinster. He also played for Cashel RFC. 

In 1988, Des moved to the United States. After a brief stint in Syracuse, Des joined the Pittsburgh Rugby Club from 1989 – 1991 before moving to California and playing two years at the storied Belmont Shore Rugby Club. Des did one more stint for Pittsburgh Rugby Club in 1993 before finishing his playing career for Morris RFC in New Jersey. 

Des coached the Pittsburgh Rugby Club from 2001 – 2003. After some time off, he stepped back in to a coaching role assisting at Central Catholic High School from 2014 – 2016 and then North Pitt United U-19 from 2017 – 2018. In addition to coaching, Des also has a tremendous amount of rugby administrative experience. He served as the Secretary for the Pittsburgh Rugby Club from 2003 – 2007 before serving as the President of the Allegheny Rugby Union from 2007 – 2011. Finally, Des served on the inaugural Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Forge from 2019-2020. 


Assistant/Forwards Coach Derek Neubauer

Derek Neubauer has been added to the staff as an Assistant/Forwards Coach. Derek began playing at Slippery Rock University in 2000, serving as the club’s Captain from 2003 – 2005. He earned a selection to the ARU Select Sides in 2004. Upon graduation, Derek began playing for the Bayonne Bombers and then the Westmoreland Highlanders before moving over to the Pittsburgh Rugby Club where he played from 2009 through PRFC’s rebirth as the Forge in 2018, and playing two additional seasons with the Forge’s top side in 2018 and 2019 before entering retirement. 

Derek began coaching at his alma mater, Slippery Rock University, in 2006 and then continued to coach there even after becoming the Head Coach at the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. Derek resigned from SRU in 2011 and focused on Pitt, coaching there until 2020. Derek also served as an ARU Select Side coach in 2009. 


Assistant/Backs Coach Clark Hoopes

Finally, Clark Hoopes joins the Forge Men’s staff as an Assistant/Backs Coach.  Clark began playing rugby at the University of Massachusetts in 2007, where he was named to the NERFU and NRU College All-Stars each year from 2007 – 2010. He was also named a USA Rugby Collegiate All-American in 2009. After graduation, Clark played for Boston’s South Shore Rugby Club from 2010 – 2015 and for Boston’s Super League side during the 2011 – 2012 season. Clark also toured with Atlantis Rugby 7s in 2009 and 2011 before joining the Pittsburgh Rugby Club in 2015. In the summer of 2016, Clark competed with the storied 1823 7’s side out of Columbus, OH. 

Clark continued to play for the Pittsburgh Forge in their inaugural 2018 season before injuries forced him into retirement. Clark was named the Forge Men’s 7’s Coach in the spring of 2019 and will continue to serve the club in that capacity in addition to assisting the 15’s program in his new role.  


Forge Men’s Coaching Staff for 2021 – 2022 Competitive Cycle: 

  • Head/D1 Coach: Stephen Walsh 
  • Assistant/D2 Coach: Allan Murray 
  • Assistant/D3 Coach: Des O’Connor 
  • Assistant/Forwards Coach: Derek Neubauer 
  • Assistant/Backs Coach: Clark Hoopes 

The Forge Men are in the midst of training for the Fall 2021 season and are fielding three (3) sides in Midwest League Play. Players interested in working with our coaches are encouraged to attend a training session or contact the club for more information!  Contact Us.

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