Oregon men’s club rugby continues to grow in size and strength. Five years ago, the team had 18 members. Now the roster has 51.
Though a majority of the players on the team played the sport prior to joining the team, there are players who are relatively new to the pitch. Players have to come into training with a positive mentality and the desire to learn to play the game in the team’s system.
“We have a good mix,” captain Charles Tschudin said. “Rugby is one of those things where it looks foreign. To most guys it’s a little intimidating watching at first but for most guys getting thrown into the fire it makes 100 percent clarity [of how to play].”
The team works hard in practice with the motto of “train to win,” according to head coach Pate Tuisue. Both experienced and inexperienced players work together to better one another and improve the team.
“Most of the guys who come in have about three years under their belt,” Tuisue said. “Lately, we’ve had a lot of guys who haven’t played at all. We have a guy who has never played a contact sport. It’s amazing because those guys — and I don’t know why — but they have better mechanics. We have a swimmer, and he has great hands.”
Rugby as a sport is growing in the United States. The UO is a microcosm of the expansion. During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Rugby 7s was introduced to the Olympic repertoire with a U.S. team competing.
“[Rio 2016] a great way to showcase the sport on the world’s biggest stage,” Tschudin said. “It used to be hard to find a youth team in most cities but now they’re popping up more and more, both boys and girls. It’s a great community in general.”
Oregon plays in some 7s tournaments but the team prefers to play in the traditional 15-a-side games as more players are able to see time on the pitch, especially with its substantial roster.
Playing in D1-AA, Oregon is up against other schools from the Pacific Northwest and throughout the Pac-12 region, but is not part of D1-A, the top division.
“In D1-A, USA Rugby has a bit more control over that league,” forwards coach and former Oregon club player Anton Matschek said. “There’s plenty of D1-AA teams out there that are quality teams.”
The team hopes to return to nationals, which it played in as recently as 2014. Nationals is a 15-a-side tournament with teams from every region in the U.S., which include some of the best collegiate-level rugby players from throughout the world.
“We want to get back to nationals,” Spencer de Urioste said. “We’re hungry to get back to nationals. We were ranked 22nd in the nation [in 2014]. Last year we entered a little bit of rebuilding but we’re hungry to get back to nationals this year.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow