For the Truman State men’s rugby team, Feb. 27 marks the beginning of the spring season. With new recruits, a rise of popularity in the sport, strong team unity and a passion for the game, players says they are eager to take the pitch and kick off their season.
Senior outside center Zane Smith says the team finally is finding itself in a position where it is not rebuilding because of graduated players. Smith says during previous seasons, recruitment was poor, and the team did not add any new players to the roster.
“Last year was definitely the worst year we’ve had during my time as far as number of players and interest,” Smith says. “[This year] … we have a lot of young guys excited to play and learn, but we also have a good core group of experienced players.”
Smith says though he expects the newcomers to make plenty of mistakes this season, their games will be competitive and will serve as a learning experience. Smith says he thinks another reason the team did not attract new recruits during past seasons is because the sport was not as popular in the United States as it is now. Smith says with the introduction of rugby into this year’s Summer Olympics, he is confident the sport will become more popular at Truman.
Despite having this past trouble, Smith says the team is optimistic going forward. Smith says besides an opportunity to compete, the sport is rewarding because it creates a bond between teammates and a sense of respect. He says after a match, opposing teams shake hands and give genuine congratulations to one another. Smith says despite the competitive nature Truman shares with other teams, rugby brings teams together in respect for the game instead of breeding anger and hostility toward each other.
Senior second row Josh Sander says he is looking forward to the start of the season for the competition and the opportunity to become closer with his new teammates. Sander says the team is filled with great people who are close-knit and excited to learn and improve their game.
Sander says he enjoys the sport so much because it is open to all types of people. He says the variety of 15 positions on the field allow for people of all builds and sizes to play.
“We have starters that range anywhere from 100-300-plus pounds,” Sander says. “You don’t need to be big and muscular or violent to play the sport.”
Connor Stewart, sophomore flanker and inside center, says the national and global rise in popularity of the sport has led to a heightened interest on campus. Stewart says rugby is the fastest growing sport in the United States and will be played in the Olympics for the first time since 1924.
The team’s first game will be Saturday against the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri.