Abbotsford’s Jenna Nielsen has been signed by the Lindenwood Lions women’s rugby program. (Wade Peary photo)

Abbotsford’s Jenna Nielsen has been signed by the Lindenwood Lions women’s rugby program. (Wade Peary photo)

Abbotsford’s Jenna Nielsen signs with Lindenwood rugby

Abbotsford Rugby Football Club product joins Missouri school

Abbotsford’s Jenna Nielsen is taking her talents to Missouri.

The Abbotsford Rugby Football Club product recently signed with the St. Charles, Mo.-based Lindenwood Lions women’s rugby team and will join the storied club in the fall.

Lindenwood has won the last four College Rugby Association of America Women’s D1 Elite 15s National Championships, the last four Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s titles and the last four USA Rugby 7s Collegiate Championships.

Nielsen said she had several offers from a number of schools, but everything felt right about Lindenwood when she made a campus visit earlier this year.

“It felt like home and everyone was very welcoming,” she said. “They were energetic and when it was time to get down to work everyone’s head space was in the mentality of hard work and dedication to the sport.”

She said she will be suiting up in both 15s and 7s at the school.

Surprisingly, Nielsen did not play the sport in elementary or middle school in Abbotsford and was solely introduced to and fell in love with the game through the ARFC. She said she played several sports including soccer, volleyball, basketball and gymnastics growing up, but the atmosphere of rugby drew her in.

“I didn’t really find any of those other sports to be a challenge to me,” she said. “And when I started rugby I realized with this sport you have to work for it and things don’t easily fall into place. I like that I have to work really hard and there’s always some new technique changes or new plays you have to learn. You’re also never going to be perfect and always can be better with rugby.”

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Nielsen said the coaches at ARFC helped her and so many others develop their game.

“The coaching staff at ARFC just gives you so many opportunities to improve,” she said. “They want every single kid to do their best and they work with every kid on their strengths and weaknesses to make everyone better. They want everyone to grow and continue playing and that was what most memorable from there for me.”

She went to high school in Langley, but then transferred to Duncan’s Cowichan Secondary Secondary to join that school’s rugby academy. Nielsen said it was a challenge to leave home early, but she developed tight bonds with her teammates and became a much better rugby player during her two years at the school. While on Vancouver Island she also suited up for the Cowichan local rugby teams.

Nielsen said it seems likely that she will be able to start in her first year at Lindenwood, but the position she will line up at could be a number of possibilities. She originally started as a scrum-half, but also played inside and outside centre, fullback and flank.

“I’m kind of all over the place,” she said, laughing when asked about her position.

But that versatility will be an added benefit for Lindenwood and Nielsen said she is eager to fit in wherever she can.

She said her ultimate goal is to represent Canada in either the 7s or 15s, but also would love to play professionally in places like New Zealand, Australia or Europe.

The Lions typically compete begin games in September and also participate in tournaments throughout the spring.

For more, visit lindenwoodlions.com/sports/womens-rugby.

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