Rugby ATL's Connor Cook Ã¢ÂÂ "We All Want to Play for Each OtherÃ¢ÂÂ
Written by Joe Harvey
Arriving in Atlanta during the Summer, Connor Cook joined Rugby ATL with a wealth of Major League Rugby experience.
For the first three years, Connor represented the Colorado Raptors and played for the side on no less than 25 occasions before making the move to Georgia.
First taking up rugby when attending high school in Hawaii, the 30-year-old played the sport alongside both soccer and football.
Thanks to playing soccer, Connor was a well-thought-of placekicker and attended University of Redlands in California to play football before getting approached to play rugby at Arkansas State.
Earning All-American honors while with the Red Wolves, it was after graduating that the flanker moved to Denver for work, and played for the Raptors in the Pacific Rugby Championship.
Going pro in 2018, Connor is one of the most familiar faces in MLR and a hugely recognizable one at that, thanks to his dreadlocks.
Returning to Marietta
While in college, Connor became accustomed to trips to Life University to take on the Running Eagles, where Rugby ATL play their home games.
However, these experiences were as an enemy. The 6'3" and 220lbs forward was often the man charged with kicking the points for the Red Wolves.
Now he is a regular for the home team, starting in each of the three games that ATL have played so far this season.
It has been a near picture perfect start for Connor and his new teammates, with Scott Lawrence's side winning two out of three games so far this season to sit at the head of the Eastern Conference.
"We obviously had a rough one against DC," Connor said, when asked about how he felt ATL had started the season.
"We didn't really perform at our best there, but each week we are building and continuing to learn.
"A huge part of that is coming from Scott (Lawrence, the team's GM), where each week he wants us to get 10% better, which I think is important so that you don't get complacent, stuck in your ways, and keeping each other honest.
"We train very hard. Not overtraining by any means, it is very well structured and worked well with our Head of Human Performance to make sure we are not overworked.
"We don't have any players that are superstars, who could be treated differently, everyone is equal and that creates a camaraderie amongst us, and we all want to play for each other.
"That's what we do every weekend and I think every player knows that and wants to continue to build and drive this franchise. That is a major reason we rally around each other so well."
Preparing for New York
Beating San Diego 41-22 last weekend, this Sunday Rugby ATL will be offering Rugby United New York some southern hospitality.
So far in 2021, the successes of both sides come thanks to their huge forward packs that allow space to be made for the backs to cross the try line.
Broadcasting live on CBSSN, Connor believes that the foundation of a good performance will come if ATL's defense continues to be as effective as it was against Toronto and the Legion.
"We work on every facet of the game, but defense is a big one for us," Connor explained. "It is about consistently staying together, realizing your roles and bringing aggressive line speed.
"Then when it comes to attack, we are mainly just trying to smooth out some of the pieces. We have a good game plan; it is just a matter of us executing it and then executing the finer skills to make it work.
"New York is going to shift the ball around a bit more than San Diego did. They play a pretty expansive game, and we know that is coming at us. They like to get the ball wide, so we are looking to shut that down.
"They have some big boys in the pack too. They have ball carriers in Hanco (Germishuys), Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta may be available this week, and they'll have good set-piece.
"I just think that if we continue to back ourselves and play like we have been, then I think we'll be okay.
"But those are the bigger things we are looking at. As long as we continue to play with solid defense, then attack will sort itself out."
Fans watching in the USA can watch Rugby ATL's clash with Rugby United New York on CBSSN, whilst fans abroad can watch the game on The Rugby Network.
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Major League Rugby Stories from April 8, 2021
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