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Ram Rugby looking for a return to nationals

Rian Fugier carries the ball past defender Kyle Eichleberger at practice last Friday. The Rams are playing a Fall season in hopes to defend their national title in the Spring.
Rian Fugier carries the ball past defender Kyle Eichleberger at practice last Friday. The Rams are playing a Fall season in hopes to return to the national playoffs in the Spring.

After a 2013 spring season that included a conference championship and a trip to the national quarterfinals, the CSU club rugby team is looking towards a successful fall season and a return to the national playoffs. Head coach Justin Mort has been very impressed with the progression of the team that carries more than 30 new players.

“We have new players coming in and older players leaving, so the turnover can be tough, but the progress these guys have shown is great,” Mort said.

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Unlike the spring season, which consists of a conference schedule and teams playing with fifteen players on the field at a time, the fall season consists of friendly matches and qualifying tournaments for the 7’s National Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. The only major difference between 7-player rugby and the normal 15-player match is the length of the match; 7’s rugby is played in two seven-minute halves with a one minute halftime, while a normal rugby match usually runs about 80 minutes.

So far this year, the Rams have played two friendly matches against Wyoming and Utah Valley University, as well as one 7’s national qualifier at BYU in Provo, Utah.

“We lost at BYU, which a lot of people expected. They’re a great team, but I think we can compete with teams like that if we continue to play at that level,” Mort said.

CSU will play in two more national qualifiers this season, this weekend at Cal Poly and on October 26th here in Fort Collins. For a team in the midst of a turnaround, Mort and the Rams are not shy about having big goals for the season.

“Our biggest goal is to make nationals. That’s our goal every fall, and I am confident that we can get back there in November,” Mort said.

In club sports, one of the toughest obstacles is how much turnover of players there can be due to the lack of outside funding and scholarships. Almost half of the players on this year’s team haven’t played collegiate rugby, but coaches believe many of the new players have picked up the game very well. The Rams have about 60 players on the squad, most of whom will spend the fall on the development team learning the game and improving their skills for the spring.

“One of the biggest challenges is how many new guys we have coming in and about half of them have never played rugby before. But a lot of these guys have played football before and their athleticism helps them pick up rugby pretty quickly,” Mort said.

For the Ram Rugby program, it’s all about creating a bond on and off the pitch and building a successful team. New players are always welcome to the program and there is no certain experience level needed to join the program. The team practices from 6-8 p.m. Mondays and Fridays on the IM fields and Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. on the football practice turf.

“Not very many people know about Ram Rugby. We are working to the turn the program around and we’ve brought in some very experienced coaches that have a great knowledge about the game,” Mort said.

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Club sports Beat Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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