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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M men’s rugby hopeful for return to pitch

Texas A&Ms mens rugby club competes in the Red River Conference against teams such as Baylor, Texas Tech, LSU and Oklahoma.
via @aggierugbyfc on Instagram

Texas A&M’s men’s rugby club competes in the Red River Conference against teams such as Baylor, Texas Tech, LSU and Oklahoma.

Texas A&M’s rugby team is looking to avenge the 2020 season’s abrupt end due COVID-19 when the team was on course to dominate in the national championship.
A&M’s rugby squad was created in 1968 and is in the Red River Conference with schools like Baylor, Texas Tech, LSU and Oklahoma. A&M coach James Lowrey said the team has been unable to schedule games so far this season, but will have matches over the summer.
Last year’s team was in California for its spring tour – interconference games to prove its rankings against tougher opponents like Santa Clara and Cal Poly – before the 2020 shutdowns ended the season. Since then, Lowrey said the May matches are the first to be tentatively approved, and the team is waiting on final university approval for the club matches.
“They had the potential to finally make a varsity team and win a championship [in 2020], and that was robbed of them after all the work they’ve put in,” Lowrey said. “I was heartbroken for them to not see that.”
Since they haven’t been able to plan for opponents, the team has focused only on what it can control, Lowrey said.
One major change has been practicing in cohorts of 10 while wearing masks. Senior inside centre and team co-captain Will Green said training with those restrictions has made it extremely difficult to practice considering rugby is a contact sport.
Sophomore Manu Zapata, grad student Mikey Miller and team President Dutch Patterson are all players Lowrey said he expects to lead and be the spine of the team. With 18 returning seniors out of a 50-man squad, Lowrey said the experience — and the pause — is fuel to win.
“The same guys that were green last year have another year under their belt, and as an athlete, all you need is time for the penny to drop,” Lowrey said. “Throw in the COVID[-19] experience and these guys are not only talented but hungry and significantly better.”
Coaches are able to dictate their team schedule with 6-8 interconference games and more out of conference games. Lowrey said the national championship is like March Madness; win conference, then move on to bigger playoffs. A&M reached last year’s conference final and was set to play Oklahoma when COVID-19 canceled everything.
Although it hasn’t cultivated as large a following in the U.S., rugby is growing followers through club squads at schools like A&M and University of Texas. Rugby is played internationally, but is most popular in New Zealand, Wales, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Georgia and Madagascar, where it is the national sport.
South Africa and New Zealand are the two powerhouses of national rugby. Their national teams hold three World Cup wins apiece, the most by any country. Lowrey, a New Zealand native, noted that basketball players transition better to rugby than from American football because of their understanding of space and lateral movement.
Rugby was created in 1823 at the rugby school in Warwickshire, England. Each team has 15 players on the pitch. Eight players in the tight scrum, similar to what an offensive lineman would be in American football, and seven players scattered all over the field called backs, which is like a skill-position in football. The game consists of two 40-minute halves; timeouts can be called either when the ball is dead or by the team in possession of the ball.
Points are scored three ways. A try is the most common and is when a team grounds the ball in the goal area, similar to the endzone. After that, a conversion kick can be converted for two extra points. Penalty kicks or drop goals are both worth three points. A drop kick is when a team bounces the ball off the ground and kicks it through the field goal. Players can only pass the ball laterally or back and once tackled a player has to release the ball.
“I just want to play,” sophomore Fly half Manu Zapata said. “And now that it looks like we might be able to, it makes me want to get everything done and let go of everything I’ve been holding back for the last year.”
This summer, the team is working with Old Maroon, a nonprofit Texas A&M Rugby support group, to raise funds for travel to postseason national tournaments and tours. Follow the rugby team and schedule updates at http://www.aggierugby.com/schedule.

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