NFL, MLB, CFL stats

Nick Civetta – We Have Clear Cut Ambitions

May 20, 2021 - Major League Rugby (MLR) - Rugby United New York News Release

Having played abroad for much of the past eight years, native New Yorker Nick Civetta is now using the experiences he has had overseas to help drive Rugby United New York forward in Major League Rugby.

Civetta first picked up a rugby ball at the age of 18 while attending the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the lock forward's talents were quickly noticed at the elite level. An All-American in his junior and senior year, after concluding his Bachelor of Science degree, he then attended the University of California, Berkley, where he represented Cal Rugby, before joining San Francisco Golden Gate RFC in 2012.

After a year in the Rugby Super League, Civetta moved back to the east coast to play for New York Athletic Club before setting his sights on Europe. Having gained caps for the USA Selects, Civetta went to Italy in order to progress his rugby, representing Lazio, Vaidana and RC I Medicei in the Serie A competition.

After three years in Italy, Premiership Rugby side Newcastle Falcons came calling for the forward's services. It was shortly after joining Newcastle that Civetta gained his first caps for the Eagles. Playing in an uncapped match against the Maori All Blacks in Chicago, Civetta made his official debut a week later against Romania in Bucharest.

Since then, the 31-year-old has been a regular for his country and started in each of the three Rugby World Cup games that the USA played in Japan. Returning to Europe shortly after that tournament, Civetta played for RC Vannes in ProD2 having concluded his time in England with Doncaster Knights prior to the World Cup.


For Civetta, returning to the United States in order to play for Rugby United New York in MLR, was very much the things dreams are made of. Having had to depart his home eight years ago in order to play professional rugby, the lock forward says that it means a lot to him to be able to play for his home city.

"When I left for Italy eight years ago, I had the dream at that time of playing professional rugby in the States, as I think a lot of American rugby players did, but it wasn't even remotely a possibility," Civetta said.

Photo by Cool Rugby Photos

"I always told myself that if I could play in New York, I would love to play for New York. Now, we have come to 2021 and not only is that a reality for me, the level and standard is really good.

"To play the other weekend against Los Angeles at home and have my mom there, my dad, my stepdad, my aunt and my uncle all watching on Mother's Day, it means a lot to be here and to play here."


Making his New York debut against Rugby ATL in the fourth round, Civetta has been ever present for his team, regularly combining with Nate Brakeley and Charlie Hewitt in the second row.

So far during his time in blue and orange, Civetta has experienced victory on four occasions, the highlight no doubt being the team's 18-16 victory over LA, but on two occasions he and his teammates have had to go home off the back of a loss.

Soundly beaten by Toronto at their home, Cochrane Field, 12-53 and most recently falling short against Austin, Civetta speaks to MLR just two days after the 9-16 loss at the hands of the Texans, the 31-year-old in full knowledge that the season so far has had its peaks and troughs, but there is a bright horizon for him and his teammates.

"I think a mixed bag is probably an accurate way to describe it," Civetta said. "We need to be hitting our metrics every week if we want to win games. When we played Los Angeles, we achieved all the main goals we set out to achieve and that gave us success.

"We had goals to achieve on Saturday, in regard to what we wanted to achieve from a set piece point of view, from a kicking point of view and we didn't achieve them. It is hard in this league to get it right every week and we were disappointed with the result on Saturday, but the goal is to be hitting our stride now, for the remainder of the season."

With their longest journeys now behind them, New York can now focus on making Cochrane Field into a fortress, carry on picking wins up and become the team that will take the Eastern Conference.

Right now, the team sits second in their Conference, just two points shy of Rugby ATL. With that in mind, Civetta is more than aware of the possibilities ahead of New York, their ambitions very much being to be in the playoffs come the end of the regular season.

"We want to be a playoff team, and I think in the East right now every team has that ambition," Civetta said. "There is six points that separate the top from the bottom, so it is incredibly tight.

"We have clear cut ambitions about where we want to go, and I think we have the quality to do it. Every week from here on in is part of the playoff push and we have to set that on our long-term horizon."


With New England next up, for Civetta the relevance of a rivalry between New York and Boston is not lost on the 31-year-old. Whether it be football, baseball or basketball, any encounter between two team's bearing those cities' names is hotly contested, the pride of being the best in the northeast at stake.

There has only been one encounters between New York and New England so far, with the Bostonians coming out on top (34-14) in their first ever MLR game all the way back in the February of 2020.

"I grew up a big Yankees fans, I've been to a few Yankees-Red Sox games in both New York and at Fenway Park," Civetta said. "This rivalry is fresh, so it will be big.

"I have some good friends on the Free Jacks, and I know Alex Magleby well from age-grade stuff years ago. They are a classy organization, so I am excited to build what I think could be a really important rivalry.

"New York and Boston sports rivalries are unique, there is a lot of history in all existing sports, so I hope that we can build this rugby rivalry into something special."


How do you define "being fit" both physically and mentally?

I think physical fitness has a lot more tangible definition. I think if you work hard enough and long enough, you get to a point where you are considered physically fit, but I don't think being physically fit is as valuable without good mental fitness. Mental fitness is, checking in with yourself every day, making sure that you are in a good place and, on top of that, checking in with your teammates every day to make sure they are in a good place. Rugby is a stressful sport, on a day-to-day basis you are exposed to stressful events that you don't experience in a lot of other lines of work, so I think it is really important to be really cognoscente of how you are feeling and to speak seriously about how you are feeling with yourself and with your teammates.

On game days, how do you prepare mental clarity? / How important is it to prepare mentally for game days? 

Everyone is different, right? Over the years you find out how it works for you, I have a very distinct game day prep that I go through, whether that is a similar diet, typically the night before I am watching the set piece of the team we are playing, our set piece from our previous game, just to align myself with the goals we have set out for ourselves as a team and on game day, it gets easier on repetition. The more you play, the more comfortable you are preparing yourself mentally and you figure out what works for you, what doesn't work. A lot of people are pretty regimented in the timings of when they do certain things. Other guys are much more chilled out, so there is a lot of each to their own, but I think the valuable bits are in making sure that you are mentally prepared by doing your homework, getting the diet right and putting yourself in the best place to perform.

Do you find that exercising or doing some form of physical activity helps you mentally?

I think it is one of the most important things to do, honestly. Especially with the last year or so where we have been locked in our homes, more or less. I know I did a lockdown in the UK, so it is one of the things you can do without any equipment, that can set you up for a great day. You can spend 20 minutes on yourself in the morning, do some yoga, some stretching or a bike ride, a nice walk or whatever it is. I think it is excellent for your mental health and I think it sets the terms for how you approach the rest of the day.

How do you mentally overcome a tough loss and/or injury? 

Well, losses happen. You have to contextualize everything that you are trying to accomplish over the course of the season, so you can't dwell on something too long because it becomes unproductive and you want to focus on the next task at hand and in this league there are weekly challenges. There is no week off, anybody can beat anybody, as the last couple of weeks have shown and I don't dwell too much on the negative of losses. For injuries it is sort of a similar thing. What I always think about is setting realistic goals, so if you hurt something and you are not able to run for the next couple of weeks, you can't just think about wanting to run, you have to take steps. That could be days or hours at a time, asking what you can accomplish in rehab that day, what incremental games you can get. I think that prevents you from getting too far ahead of yourself. That's when you can get stressed, when you're looking a bit too far forward and thinking, 'what if I don't make it?'. That is unproductive and slows down your healing as well.

How do you contribute to your mental health on a daily basis?

A lot of positive affirmations from myself and my teammates. I think coming in every morning with a smile and treating everybody with respect, I think that sets the tone for the environment to be really good for people's mental health, so just trying to be a good teammate helps a lot. I spend a lot of time speaking to my partner about it, she is a mental health professional, so she is always giving me good tips on how to stay mentally healthy as well.


This Sunday at 4:00 PM PT Rugby United New York hosts the New England Free Jacks. Fans watching in the United States can tune in on CBSSN and fans outside the United States can watch the game for free on The Rugby Network.

Written by Joe Harvey

• Discuss this story on the Major League Rugby message board...

Major League Rugby Stories from May 20, 2021

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

Other Recent Rugby United New York Stories

Sports Statistics from the Stats Crew
OurSports Central