Men's rugby seeks to win division

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Alabama competed in the Colegiate Rugby Championship for the first time in May of 2015. Photo courtesy of Shawn Dawley

Matt Speakman

The Alabama Crimson Tide Men’s rugby team picked up a 34-7 win over Ole Miss on September 18.

The Crimson Tide enjoyed success last season, making it to Collegiate Rugby Championship tournament for the first time in program history. The team was able to get national exposure as one of its games was televised on the NBC Sports network.

Alabama made strides in the 2014-2015 season by winning the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference’s Olympic competition. It also finished runner up to South Carolina in the 15’s Championship in its conference.

With the program rising and enjoying recent successes, the players now have newfound expectations. Matthew Lund, a veteran who has been with the team for four years, believes the can build off of the success of last season.

“For us, anything beneath making it back to the conference final would be a failure,” Lund said. “We really want to win the division.”

The recent success has caused an expansion in the program. The roster for the rugby team has grown. The team now feels confident in the amount of guys it can put out on the field, and the larger team allows the club to have depth. 

Since the team is a club sport, they do not recruit players to play rugby. These players join if they are interested. It’s a tough task for new players to transition into the style of play and level of conditioning required for the sport.

“Most guys, whether they play basketball or football, are playing burst sports, so you are seven to 10 minutes, 20 seconds off,” Lund said. “Being able to play 80 minutes- two 40 minute halves with a five minute break- where you are running all of the time is more kin to what a rugby player needs.”

The structure of club teams can provide complications for the players involved. Students who decide to play rugby are not given the ability to plan their schedule around the sport, like some players could with basketball or football. Shawn Dawley, president of the rugby club, said this provides a challenge in continuity for the team.

“We have a lot of guy[s] who need one class for their major so we will lose someone for that practice,” Dawley said. “It can be pretty challenging and you do not get your same team out there every day.”

The Men’s rugby team is looking for continued support of its efforts as the club competes at home multiple times this year. Alabama will face off with Auburn in Tuscaloosa on Friday, September 25.