Rugby team strives for national championship

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Ryan Hardison

The rugby club team practices Tuesdays and Thursdays at night.

by Ryan Hardison, Staff Writer

San Diego State’s club rugby team is on a mission to earn their first national championship since 1987. 

The club was founded in 1958, and the team has competed nationally since then. Over the past 60 years, the club has amassed multiple conference championships and numerous All-American awards, an honor given to the best players at the collegiate level, but they want another national title.

Kinesiology senior and club president Scotty Curran said the Aztec rugby teams of past and present pride themselves on physicality. The players rally behind their team motto “State Hits,” meaning that if you’re playing on the opposing team, they’ll hit you hard. 

Curran said many of the students in the club have little previous rugby experience, but they are still an integral part of the team. 

“We mostly get guys who played contact sports in high school who want to continue the whole brotherhood aspect,” Curran said.

Meanwhile, some of the players on the team have significant experience in the sport. Nursing senior Matt Whiteley played rugby for seven years prior to joining the club as a freshman and has no regrets about his time playing rugby. 

“I played American football and other sports, but this is the sport I fell in love with,” Whiteley said. “There’s a lot of hostility in different sports while rugby is built on comroddarie, discipline and playing together. Plus it’s a fun, fast-paced sport.”

Curran is glad the sport is growing more popular in the U.S. and thinks that rugby is starting to get the exposure it deserves. 

“It’s called the fastest growing world sport for a reason. Nowadays the U.S. is starting to compete more often, and you’ll see tons of rugby clips on Instagram,” Curran said. “With all that happening it’s just exciting to be a rugby player in America right now because the game is just exploding.” 

The team plays in the USA Rugby College Division 1 Premier League, the highest level of collegiate rugby in the U.S. Since joining the D1 Athletic Premier League in 2012, the Aztecs have been consistently ranked in the top 20 best college rugby teams in the nation. Among 66 other schools in the league, SDSU is part of the California Conference which includes St. Mary’s, University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Davis.  

Kinesiology junior Jake Vassar said the team’s biggest rivals also include the University of Arizona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

“Since we play at the highest level, we constantly play against teams with varsity programs like St. Mary’s and Cal Poly, which are some of the best teams in the nation,” Vassar said. 

Whiteley said one of the things that makes SDSU’s rugby club special is that unlike other top rugby schools, SDSU doesn’t recruit any players, so the program is purely built on passion for the sport. 

“Schools like St. Mary’s and Cal recruit players from overseas and have scholarships, so it’s really cool that we have a bunch of guys who are just willing to put their bodies on the line and get after it,” Whiteley said.

As seniors and leaders of the 48-man team, Curran and Whiteley are striving to build on the elite traditions of SDSU rugby and perform better than ever this year.

Club rugby begins their conference playing against University of California, Santa Barbara on Feb. 8 at 1:30 p.m. on the ENS 700 field. 

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