Rugby wraps up preseason and prepares for a promising year ahead
The Rice Rugby Football Club will play its first regular season game tomorrow at 2 p.m. against Texas State University. Though only the season opener, captain Agha Nkama said he thinks the game will be a good indicator of who will win the league championship.
"I look forward to the game against Texas State because it practically determines who's going to win the league," Nkama said. "It looks like we're the favorites, and I'm looking forward to success."
Last year, the rugby team finished second in the Southwest Conference to the University of Texas. This year, the Owls are favored to win the Division I-AA conference championships since UT has since moved up to Division I-A.
However, the rugby men are not taking this season for granted. In addition to practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays like last year, the team has added Monday and Wednesday morning runs and conditioning to its regimen.
The true test of the team's fitness will come tomorrow as the team expects to beat the only other team, after UT, that beat the Owls last year.
"Last year, we weren't prepared physically so we ended up losing [to Texas State]," Rugby President Shaun Haby said. "Now, we have stepped up our training, and I think it shows."
Not only have the Owls trained harder this year, but they have also, for the first time in Rice rugby history, prepared for the regular season by participating in the 7s (7 men on each side) preseason in an effort to gain extra practice entering the year.
Despite finishing as the seventh overall seed after playing in two round-robin tournaments, the Owls are optimistic about their upcoming 15s (15 men on each side) season.
"7s wasn't too kind to us, but 15s is what we've always done, so it should be our bread and butter," Haby said. "We didn't lose too many guys from last year, so we should have a strong team."
Nkame, who has been in the rugby club since his freshman year and played on the team that went to Division II national championship two years ago, said this team looks like it has the most potential since he joined it.
"We have strong senior and junior classes that make up all the starters," Nkame said.
Haby, who spent the past summer playing rugby in New Zealand, he said he wants to end his career on a high note by winning the conference championship and going to nationals.
Though Rice lost to Texas State in the 7s conference championship tournament earlier this year, Nkame and Haby have confidence that their strong returning roster will play to win.
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