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Interview With Cal Rugby Alum - Dave Guest


We're taking a jaunt through the entirety of a rugby team.  And not just any rugby team, but the Cal rugby team!  We've talked with Marc TausendScott AndersonRay LehnerMichael Freeman, Rob WeedonJoel DiGiorgio, Andrew BlairMichael MacDonaldJohn BuchholzLouis Stanfill, Tony Vontzand Jacques Wilson.

Today, we are talking with Dave Guest.  Here is information on today's guest, Dave Guest:

Dave Guest played two years of varsity football and baseball while a student at Petaluma High School. As a senior wide receiver, Guest averaged 31.5 yards per catch, scoring four TD's and earning himself second-team all-league honors and a state championship in that time. So when he decided to attend Cal in the Fall of 1997 it seemed only natural that he would immediately become an impact player on the football field. His father, Don Guest, played football at Cal from 1965-66, so the proverbial "apple doesn't fall far from the tree" scenario was ripe for the happening. But it didn't quite turn out the way one might have assumed. Instead, Guest chose to follow in his father's "other" footsteps - becoming a member of the California Rugby team. And the rest is history. As a senior he won his 5th national championships at Cal. As a senior wing/goal kicker, Guest had evolved into a leader on and off the field, being named as a three time All-American for rugby. He went on to play rugby around the world for a few years. The highlight of his career thus far was being capped for the Tongan 7's team at the IRB 7's Tournament in Carson, Ca. He played in 4 matches for Tonga against England, Fiji, USA and Mexico. He was able to score two tries on the weekend one being the go ahead try against Fiji. Fiji was able to miraculously even the contest at the final whistle, but it was the first time Tonga had beaten or tied Fiji since 1974. 

Many thanks to Dave Guest for being so awesome as to take the time to answer these questions.  Enjoy them after the jump.  GO BEARS!

1. What got you interested in playing rugby initially?

My father. He played rugby at Cal as many of the football players did when their eligibility was up for football. He went on to play for the US National Rugby Team. I grew up watching him play and going to his games.

2. What got you interested in playing rugby at Cal?

My father, Jack Clark and some of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity (rugby fraternity with 25 out of 50 people on the team) sparked my interest.

I played football and baseball in high school, but realized I would be going to a D2 or D3 school if I wanted to keep playing. Jack Clark and my father convinced me to go to Cal and I felt I owed them giving rugby a shot.

My father showed me around the campus and all of them convinced me that rugby was the sport to play at Cal.

Rugby and Beta was an easy match because most of the guys I lived with had the same schedule I had (woke each other for Dawn Patrol).


3. What is the rugby recruitment process like?

Because of my football, soccer and baseball background I was encouraged to walk on the team at Cal and was well accepted.


4. Did you play on the frosh-sophs team?

Indeed. I learned to play the game my first year at Cal and learned from the best. My frosh/soph years were spent playing C team (3rd team) and sometimes B team (2nd team) games to learn the game and hone my skills. By my junior year I was breaking onto the A side (1st Team).

5. What was the experience like playing on the frosh-sophs team?

Cal has arguably the best 2nd side in the nation because most of the guys are competing to be on the 1st side. This makes the competition on the 2nd side very competitive. From experience, I can tell you that Cal's 2nd side would beat most colleges 1st teams.

6. Can you take us through the average rugby practice?

Always different! One day we would be running the fire trail or stadium's stairs and the next we would be doing tackling or rucking drills. It was always a mystery with a big hint being Coach Clark or Coach Billups attire.


7. What activities outside of official rugby practice did you partake in to stay in shape?

There wasn't a whole lot of time to do much else (eat, sleep, think rugby). Sometimes we could get in the occasional swim to burn off the lactic acid (soreness), so we could get after it on the field again.

I walked on the Football team in the year 2000. At the end of the year I was forced to make a decision: Did I want to be on a team that finished the season 3-7 or 19-0? I think I made the right decision as the next year the football team went 1-9 and the Rugby Team won another National Championship."

8. Can you take us through the average home rugby game? What are your pre-game actives? What are your post-game activities?

The 2nd and 3rd teams (outside the first 22 players) prepared the field and hung the banners making sure everything on Witter Field looked up to par. Pregame was a lot about preparation and mindset. We ate a high performance meal and made sure our heads were in the right place.
Rugby is an awesome social sport and I hope that other sports could learn from the comradery. We always hosted the other team after the game and this allowed us to be enemies on the field and shake hands with and get to know our opponents after. We had one rule: make sure the other team always eats and drinks first.

9. What do you love most about your experience on the team w/ Coach Clark?

Jack is an amazing coach and knows how to get the best out of his players. I tried to absorb every piece of knowledge Jack was giving out.

10. What was the toughest game during your career and why?

Cal's best/hardest matches are usually against these Canadian teams (University of British Colombia or University of Victoria). The "World Cup" is a 2 game series played between Cal and UBC and has a great history. These two teams have been competing for this title since before my father played (Series started 90+ years ago) and is a great competition. This really is an awesome rivalry and is judged on the aggregate of the 2 game total score, the winner taking the cup home.

Playing against the Canadian teams was always a tough match. They always had a great team and were awesome competitors. My senior year we had UBC in BC and managed to win 28-17 to help complete our undefeated season (2002). This was a heated and intense match and every point was hard fought.


11. Any good stories on how you and your teammates would go about intimidating the opposition and dominate?

Unnecessary, as we were California!

12. What are some of the fine details rugby fans should pay attention to when they first get into the game?

Try to watch a 7's match to get a feel for the flow. There are 8 less players on each team, so it's a lot less crowded and confusing.


13. What is the funniest moment during your time as a rugger for Cal?

The Stanfurd Forfeit. Stanfurd beat us all five years in football while I was at Cal. My senior year when it was time for their rugby team to take their annual beating, they quit before the game started attracting national attention.

14. What was your favorite moment as a rugger for Cal?

Winning the National Championship in Virginia Beach against Utah my senior season (2002) and finishing our perfect undefeated season 19-0.

15. What was your least favorite moment as a rugger for Cal?

My least favorite moment had to be leaving UC Berkeley. Even after 5 glorious seasons, it was very hard to graduate from such a great program.

16. Hypothetically, if you are the coach for women's rugby @ Cal, how would you build a successful program that is comparable to men's?

Follow the lead of Jack Clark and build from the ground up. Start with recruiting and find another Jerry Figone (Team Manager), if possible. Might also be helpful to convince "raw athletes" to play and reward them with a great education.

17. How has the experience of playing rugby transformed your career after graduating from Cal?

Being a high performance athlete at Cal has helped me maintain a continued love for competition (life and work) and a need for athleticism (active lifestyle).

18. What is your view on the situation surrounding the recent budget cuts at Cal that briefly imperiled rugby's status as a varsity sport? Do you believe there was a difference between "varsity" and "varsity club"? What do you think about how that process was handled by the administration?

Yes, I strongly believe there is a difference. As student athletes of a varsity program we were offered access to priority enrollment (to adjust our schedules so we didn't miss practice or training), tutors (to help us pass our classes due to missing class while traveling, etc.), the training center (keep us on the field after injuries), and the opportunity to earn a letter (huge honor). In my opinion, without "varsity" status great players will go elsewhere.

19. What is your view on the serious injuries many rugby players incur? Do you think it is more or less safe than football? What changes, if any, do you think are necessary to improve safety? Do you think enough is done to help players handle serious injuries, such as concussions?


Rugby is a tough game. My father retired after being paralyzed on the field for 5 minutes in a fluke tackle at the try line. Fortunately, he was able to get all feeling back.

In rugby, all players have the option to wear a scrum cap (padding for your head) and/or shoulder padding, but many do not. Most learn to tackle with their head behind the hip and not in front. We learned that by putting our head in front, as we did playing football, we had a much more serious chance of getting knocked out or concussed (hip or knee to the head).

20. What is your view on Rugby Sevens? Legit form of rugby or bastardization of the game?

I absolutely love 7's and so does the world (selected to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016). This is a more visually exciting version of rugby. More scoring, more space to run, quicker games, more games, more countries participating. In my book "more is better." I wish I would have started 7's earlier. I amazingly enough got the privilege to play for Tonga in the 2005 IRB 7's in Carson, CA against my teammates on the USA team. This was a truly unique and awesome experience and was the highlight of my career.


21. Do you still keep in touch with your teammates?

Yes I do, as much as possible with our busy lives.

22. Do you still follow Cal Rugby?

I do mostly on the Cal Sports website, and trying to get to at least one live game per year.

Position Questions: Wing and Fullback

1. What is your role in the open field?

As a part of the "deep three," my role was to field the ball and return it (kick returner), and to find support whenever possible.


2. What tactics do you use to accomplish your goals in the open field?

Speed, agility and ball handling (including kicking).

3. How do you determine how you should kick the ball?

It depends a lot on where you are on the field and where the defense is. Most of the time we would strategically kick the ball out of bounds or if nobody were back we would kick it as far as we could and chase. There are a number of different kicks and strategies. And then there is the 22 (long story and very complicated)!

4. It does not appear that you are directly involved in a scrum. What is your role in a scrum?

Observe and try to throw off your opposite in any way possible

5. What tactics do you use to accomplish your goals while the scrum is occurring?

Faking a run or switching positions. This allowed us to have space to run when we did receive the ball or allow your teammate to.

6. Do you have any special practices that you do to help you as a wing?

Run as fast as I could and not get caught with the ball!

8. What originally got you interested in being a wing?

In football I played wide receiver and kick returner. This allowed for an easy transition into the position of wing/fullback as they are very similar.

9. Are there any other positions you like to play besides wing?

Fullback, and in 7's I played fly half (play maker).

10. Is there anything about your body that makes you a natural fit for a wing?

I'm tall and fast.

11. It does not appear that you are directly involved in line outs. What is your role during a line out?

Same as a in a scrum: throw off the defense and get space.

12. What tactics do you use to accomplish your goals while a line out is occurring?

Fake runs and/or standing in a threatening position

13. What is the difference between the strong side wing and the blindside wing?

Strong side wing lines up on the bigger side of the field and has more space to work with. The blindside wing is given the short side of the field and has less space, but is also sometimes forgotten about (open).


14. Which one did you play more and why?

At Cal we usually played left or right wing, so we would play both strong side and blind side wing in a game. I like to play right wing because I have a better/faster step off my left foot (cutting to the right) and like to hold the ball in my right hand (more secure). Many players that I played with liked left wing because they hoped they would get the ball more with the majority of the players being right handed (passing with their right hands to the left).

All-American Team

1. What was it like to be selected to the All-American team?

It is a true honor to be one of the best 25 collegiate players in America. One of the perks to being selected to the All-American Team is all the traveling we got to do. And the trips have been getting better and better. Upon my first selection in 2000, the trip was a week extension of the already planned Pacific Coast All-Star Team (another week in epic Champaign, Illinois). In 2001 we were rewarded with a 2-3 week trip to Dublin, Ireland to play a few teams and see the beautiful country. In 2002, we went on an amazing trip to South Africa to play three teams in the region and I actually stayed over there with two teammates for a month to see even more of this amazing country. I think the 2004 team went to New Zealand (awesome, as well).

2. What is the selection process there for the All-American team?

My junior year I finally made a few starts on the side. My performance on the field got me selected to the Pacific Coast Grizzlies (West Coast All-Star Team). While playing for the Grizzlies in Champaign, Illinois (2000), I was able to impress Dale "Doc" Toohey, head of the selection committee and Long Beach State Head Coach. The rest is history!

3. What were the practices like for the All-American tour?

The All-American team usually tours just after the season concluded, so we were all in pretty good shape already. This allowed us to do double or even triple days leading up to the games on tour. This was certainly the case for our 2001 tour to Dublin and 2002 tour to South Africa. I remember in Dublin walking to beautiful Trinity University at least twice a day for practice.

4. What was your favorite moment playing for the All-American team?

My favorite moment had to be walking off the field after playing a great game against the best university side in the world, Stellenbosch in SA. Even though we lost, we played a great game and shocked most of their team.

5. How did it feel representing America abroad?

It was a pretty amazing feeling to be playing with the best 25 players at the collegiate level abroad. We all certainly took it as a big honor and played our hearts out.

6. How is the All-American team viewed abroad?

When I was playing, people abroad didn't think America played rugby. They think we only play American Football. To be able to compete and even beat some of their teams was outstanding. They were impressed

7. What did you learn at Cal that helped you succeed with the All-American team?

Being one of the smallest guys on the team, I needed to be a necessity on the field. I learned that becoming a specialist (kicker) I would be able to make the first 15 players selected to play in every game. This kept me on the field most of the time.