While many spend their lazy Saturdays watching college football, another sport exists with just as many bone-crushing hits and spectacular displays of athleticism. The Cal Poly men’s club rugby team displays these qualities in every game along with much less downtime and more physicality than football.
“Rugby is a very physical game, but it is also one of the safest,” head coach David Burnett said. “The players, coaches and referees spend a lot of time to keep it safe. Any body shape can play, and all types of athletes can play.”
Cal Poly rugby participates in the Collegiate Premier League which is made up of some of the top teams in the nation. Teams such as Cal, Stanford, UC Davis and Central Washington, along with Cal Poly, compete each year to earn the nation’s top overall spot.
Rugby, however, is not a game based solely off of brute strength and athleticism. A myriad of rules coupled with multiple plays adds to the complexity of the game. Cal Poly rugby typically practices anywhere from three to five times a week to prepare for games.
“In today’s game I scored a try,” sophomore scrum-half Alex Frost said. “It was cool cause it was a play that we were working on in practice for awhile, so it was nice to execute during the game.”
A “try” is the most valuable way to score. It is when a player is able to advance the ball past a goal line and place it down. This action is rewarded with five points. After a try, a conversion kick is awarded and if completed, successfully merits two points.
The word “try,” however, isn’t a term recognized by many in the U.S. Rugby’s presence in the U.S. is much smaller than it’s overseas counterparts in Australia and England. Despite this, there remains a devout procession of followers in the U.S. and in the San Luis Obispo community as well.
“Rugby is one of the most exciting sports to play and also watch,” Frost said. “It’s unlike football in the sense that everyone is included the plays. Anyone can have the ball during a play and there is always movement and no downtime. I think that it takes a whole team effort to be effective.”
Frost said he hopes rugby will continue to develop a greater presence at Cal Poly in the next few years, despite an overall lack of knowledge about the rules and tactics of the game by those not involved.
“It’s a tough game to understand,” junior second-row back Jeremy Lipton-Schwartz said. “I’ve been playing for awhile and only know about 80 percent of the game.”
The rules of the game are quite difficult to understand completely. Typically, a team fields 15 players, each wearing a jersey with a number signifying their position. One through eight are known as “the pack,” or forwards. Their job is to gain possession of the ball.
Players nine through 15 are known as “the backs,” or back line. Generally, backs are made of the quicker players who remain on the sides of the field and have the ability to break out and score a try at any moment.
The most important trys Cal Poly scored this year were against Cal. The Mustangs ended national champion Golden Bear’s 63-game winning streak on a game-winning last second try.
“The Cal win was a big one for us,” Frost said. “We really stuck it to them. We executed well that day and ended up pulling off the victory. It had just been something we were working at all season and we ended up executing what we needed to do.”
Cal Poly ended its season this year with two consecutive losses — one to UCLA and the other to Central Washington on Saturday. These consecutive losses prevented them from qualifying for the postseason.
Cal Poly is losing a couple of seniors including Matt Verga and All-American Landis Nasser. Despite these two key losses, the program looks to improve upon this year’s results and hopefully reach playoffs.
“We have an awesome coach from Australia who knows the game really well,” sophomore wing Nate Nunno said. “Along with him, we are only graduating a couple of seniors so we have a lot to look forward to for next year.”
Editor’s note: This article has been edited since it was originally published.