Club rugby takes on Mizzou
While the Washington University club sports program boasts strong teams across the board, the club rugby community has been flying under the radar for years.
Although most Wash. U. students do not know very much about the rugby team, there is a steady recruiting process that keeps their 25-man roster full at all times. In addition to attracting potential players at the activities fair and the WUTube festival, most of the new additions came from word of mouth about the team.
“A lot of the time someone on the team will be talking to some guys and bring out their friends,” senior captain Barry Bradley said.
“We ask people who used to play football, who used to play lacrosse and other contact sports, and we encourage them to come out,” sophomore Jordan Grimstad added.
The rugby team has a regular season schedule in which they play every team in their division twice, and the rest of their games are against men’s league teams. The division includes teams from local schools, like the University of Missouri-Rolla, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and cross-town rivals Saint Louis University.
“We are the smallest school in our division, and our athletics compete at a D-III level, while Missouri-Rolla competes at a D-II, and Missouri-Columbia and SLU both compete at the D-I level,” coach Paul Wood said. “Don’t get me wrong, though, there is no recruiting in rugby so we are not getting loaded up on, but at Mizzou and SLU, specifically, they have a higher commitment to athletics because at those schools the athletic department makes money for the school.”
The rugby squad prides itself on having a solid balance between competitiveness and enjoyment. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:00-9:00 p.m., the Rugby team rides to South Campus for practice, and games are usually played on Saturdays. Although this is not a varsity team, Wood expects consistent attendance at practice from his players.
“We try to keep practice as required as possible,” Wood said. “As coach I have to remind myself that the students are here for an education first, and I am here to coach rugby first.”
Wood also ensures that practices are structured so that the devoted players can work as a team to prepare for the next game.
“Generally at practice we work on drills,” Grimstad said. “We even do hitting drills once in a while.”
This weekend, the Bears face the University of Missouri-Columbia in one of the biggest matches of the season.
“It’s always fun to play Mizzou,” Bradley said. “They are generally a good team, but they just graduated a bunch of seniors, so we think we will have a pretty good shot at beating them and then winning the conference this year.”
Wood, the former head of the Referee Society of the Missouri Rugby Football Union, uses his experience and knowledge about rugby to strategically manage matches. Although there are 15 players on the field at a time and seven reserves, a player cannot re-enter once he comes off the field.
“Each game presents different challenges,” Wood said. “You owe it to the team to put and keep the best possible team on the field while the game is in question, so tactical substitutions are mostly done early in the second half in an attempt to take advantage of the other teams adjustments.”
The rugby team takes on the University of Missouri-Columbia this Saturday.