Colorado State club sports: Meet the men’s rugby team

Angel Cooper

In the United States, American football is king. But the gridiron has roots tied to another sport that is far more popular globally and features similar aspects to America’s brand of football: that game is rugby.

While many sports fans know about the game of rugby, not everyone is familiar with the rules of rugby. While rugby hasn’t reached the same status as the big four sports, football, basketball, baseball and hockey, it is one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., and you can find it here at Colorado State University. On campus, there are both men’s and women’s rugby teams.

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Colorado State rugby takes on New Mexico on Nov. 9 on the IM fields. CSU won by a landslide score of 60-8. (Asia Kalcevic | The Collegian)

On a blue skies afternoon, the Rams were able to dominate New Mexico. Being their last home game, every individual on the team pushed to keep their energy up the whole time throughout the game.

This season, the team went 5-2. Colorado State Men’s Rugby Club won their last home game with a 60-8 finish against New Mexico State University.

Joe Rusert-Cuddy, the captain of the team, is proud of his teammates for putting in so much effort in the game.

“I am proud of our effort,” Rusert-Cuddy said. “The heat today was a little unexpected. Today was unseasonably warm. I think that kind of caught us (by surprise). I think we played well, we executed well, this being our last game of the season. Everyone wanted to walk (on) the field and give everything they had. They did not want to leave anything in the tank. That kind of motivates guys. We had a rough week last week. We kinda wanted some redemption this week.”

Scott Nies, president of the CSU men’s rugby team, explains how the rugby club is run at CSU in conjunction with USA rugby.

“We are a club sport,” Nies said. “So, that means we organize games schedules, and we book our refs, we book our field space. It is a lot of self-efficiency stuff, and we operate entirely under USA Rugby. There is not a governing body that club sports will help us out. It is all completely on us, completely student-run.”

CSU Men’s Rugby Club is part of a USA Rugby’s division 1A. Competing in a 72-team, conference-based league that features eight divisions throughout the country, the top 16 teams advance to postseason play. During the regular season, all teams within a conference face off against each other, attempting to finish in the top 16. Those 16 teams advance to East and West regionals, which entails three rounds of single-elimination, with the two winners advancing to the D1A National Championship, which takes place in early May.

Colorado State Rugby takes on New Mexico on Nov. 9 on the IM fields. CSU won by a landslide score of 60-8. (Asia Kalcevic | The Collegian)

The rugby team at CSU is very competitive. However, the team does not make cuts, so they have two men’s teams. The team is separated into varsity and junior varsity teams. The Men’s Rugby Club has three evening practices during the week to prepare for games on the weekend. There is a cost to pay on the team, but the cost covers the registration with USA Rugby.

Founded in 1970, the Rams currently compete in the Rocky Mountain Conference against BYU, CU-Boulder, Utah Valley, Air Force, Utah State, New Mexico and Wyoming. CSU has had some successful seasons throughout the years. CSU qualified for National Playoffs in 1975 en route to a fifth-place finish and didn’t qualify for playoffs again until the 1998 season when they recorded a 12th place finish nationally. Most recently, the Rams won the West Conference in 2013, making them eligible for quarter-finals. 

“Our season this year is a little interesting; we had a solid first half of the season,” Nies said. “With our only loss being with the number eight team (ranked) in the country. We built on that and continue to play well, and then last week, because of all of the snow, we did not have any practices. Our coaches were not there because they were on an international scholarship to help increase their knowledge in England. So, that is great for them, but it was tough for us because it was our rivalry game against Boulder, and … we lost over there. But overall, it has been a pretty good season.”

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Rugby is built on brotherhood and camaraderie. The teammates are always there for each other when someone is feeling down or needs extra support during the games. Matt Peppercorn, a lock on the CSU team, feels like his team is finally starting to gel together and thinks very highly of his teammates.

“I cannot think of a better group of guys that I have ever been around,” Peppercorn said. “These are some high-quality men.”

Angel Cooper can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @angelcooper05.