Focus on the Future: Hugo D’Auriol a Quick Study
By Anton Malko, Cal Athletic Communications
BERKELEY - When the PAC 7s Rugby Championship tournament kicks off Saturday, Nov. 8, on Witter Rugby Field, freshman Hugo D'Auriol may get his first chance to play a home match at California while fans get a chance to enjoy the first-ever rugby 7s event on campus in the same code of the sport that will be played for medals at the next Summer Olympic Games.
D’Auriol, who hails from Shouson, Hong Kong, and also holds a French passport, has proven to be a quick study in less than three months in Berkeley. The PAC 7s won’t be his first chance to wear the Blue and Gold, having already notched five appearances, most in a supporting role, with two tries and four conversions at the West Coast 7s and Battle in the Bay earlier in the semester.
“Those selections were a massive shock and huge privilege, and I'm just trying to work to prove that I should be in that group,” D’Auriol said. “There's definitely interest in rugby walking around campus, especially in the 7s version that's going to be in the Olympics. I hope there will be great turnout this weekend to showcase what we are doing.”
Cal will look to build on its Saturday effort in pool play through the final match that culminates knockout rounds of the PAC 7s Rugby Championship on Sunday, Nov. 9., in Strawberry Canyon. The No. 2 Bears (9-1) will depend on everyone on the selected 15-man squad to play their guts out for the PAC 7s conference title, and if selected, D’Auriol appears suited for the task.
“Yes, so far, so good for Hugo,” said head coach Jack Clark. “He is a conscientious young man with some talent and teamship qualities. He is in a position to learn from some real upperclassmen operators at present, but before long, the conversation will evolve from Hugo’s potential to his performance.”
One of 16 new players on the team, “Hugo has done well thus far in making the transition to a new country, onto our campus and into our rugby program,” added coach Tom Billups. “He’s a bright, mature young man, fully engaged in the process of constant performance improvement.”
With his tool kit stocked with an International Baccalaureate academic certificate and a rugby resume that includes representative national experience, D’Auriol has settled seamlessly into University life halfway around the world from home.
Now a 6-0, 182-pound fullback/center, D’Auriol first visited Berkeley when he attended the Nike Cal Varsity Rugby Summer Camp in 2013, putting him on the coaching staff’s radar screen. In Hong Kong, he graduated from The South Island School and played rugby with the Valley Club while competing for his school in track and field and swimming. Always a multi-sport athlete, D’Auriol said he became serious about rugby after he was selected for Hong Kong’s U-18 National Team.
His new teammates at Cal have been impressed. “I was really excited to see him come in and show the boys and coaches what he can do,” said junior Russell Webb, also from Hong Kong. “You can see he's taking everything on board, really listening. He’s a hardworking guy and always looking to improve.”
Captain Jake Anderson agreed. “He's keen on what we're trying to accomplish and seems to be pretty hungry to prove himself already, which is great. He's doing the work trying to create routines that will benefit him down the road.”
D’Auriol said he is focusing on improving “the controllables” in his rugby, spending extra time on the pitch working on restarts and conversions. As a student off the pitch, he said he has found the University to be extremely challenging even with his rigorous academic background.
D’Auriol added that the IB certificate he earned “definitely does prepare you for college life. Maybe not Berkeley college life, where you're really up among one of the highest echelons of study in the world, but the IB really did help me prepare for the rigors of academic life at a university. The time management for schoolwork also helps with athletics.”
D’Auriol is keeping an eye on Hong Kong as it progresses through protests and demonstrations for democracy that have remained mostly peaceful. He called it “unbelievable to see it on the cover of Time magazine, places I walked by every day. I'm proud to say I'm from Hong Kong and wish I could be there to support it in a more substantial way.”
His new collegiate home, he said, has “a history of free speech that is very impressive. When people hear that I'm from Hong Kong they're really interested. It's such a good sign to be surrounded by intellectually stimulating people that are genuinely curious about what's going on around the world. All these brilliant people, you're hoping it rubs off on you.”
D’Auriol said he is eager to play on Witter Rugby Field in front of Cal fans who will give the team a boost as the Bears compete in a seven-player version of the game that produces dramatic highs and lows in the space of seven-minute halves.
“No tournament is a done deal until the end of the final match,” he said. “Crowd support will be our eighth man out there.”