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Rice Rugby Club looks to continue success on the field

By By Kevin Mohanram     10/1/14 9:59am

Rice University Rugby opened its fall 2014 season with a victory over Stephen F. Austin State University, winning 24-22. The rugby team is not unaccustomed to success, however. Last season, the team finished as the runners-up in the state of Texas. Rice defeated Sam Houston State University in the semifinals of the Texas Cup 53-22, and then suffered a loss to St. Edward’s University in the championship match.


Rugby president Greg Flores said the team’s recent success has been impressive, especially considering the relative size of other schools in the state.


“We finished in third place last year in conference,” Flores, a Will Rice College junior, said. “We took second in the Texas cup, a 16-team tournament of all the best rugby teams in Texas. The previous year, we went to nationals. For the second-smallest Division I school with only [four] thousand people, I think that’s pretty good.” ­


According to Flores, the team is actively recruiting members. Despite last week’s win, Flores said the team needs more numbers in order to remain competitive with the larger schools they play.


“Rice Rugby is at a severe disadvantage,” Flores said. “We go to a school where there’s around [4,000] undergraduates, and most schools that we play have 30,000. So, for us, trying to find 20 or 30 guys to play rugby is a tough task. The more people we have at practice, the better the practice is. Anybody who is even thinking about playing rugby should come out to a couple [of] practices. Give it a shot. Play in a B side match.”


According to Rugby captain Alan Grizzaffi, the athleticism required to play rugby at a high level makes it one of the most intense club sports.


“Conditioning is the key,” Grizzaffi, a Will Rice junior, said. “You have two 40-minute halves of running clock and it becomes way easier when you’re conditioned. We try to take practices very hard and motivate [the players] and push for that extra conditioning, because then it’s way more fun when you win on game day.”


Flores knows the rules of rugby are difficult to understand for many who come out to games, and he said the team is taking steps to make the game more approachable to any students who want to come out and watch.


“It’s definitely a complicated game,” Flores said. “Something we get a lot is, ‘Yeah, it looked great, but I wasn’t really sure what was going on.’ This year, we’re going to get a scoreboard out to the field. I know one of the problems with watching rugby is that a lot of people are unfamiliar with the rules, but if they can tell who’s winning, it would help.”


According to Flores, rugby games are a great form of entertainment, and he encourages students to come watch.


“I think [games have] a great atmosphere,” Flores said. “There [are] a lot of big hits. You’re seeing fifteen guys out there working hard, putting it all on the line, and working as a team to try to represent our school. It’s really entertaining to watch.”


Off the field, the rugby team has developed a reputation as a “fraternity” due to their camaraderie and team events. According to Grizzaffi, however, the comparison is not entirely accurate.


“I wouldn’t say it’s a fraternity,” Grizzaffi said. “But we do enjoy the sense of brotherhood that we bring about. We have community service; we’re not out there to just go mess around, we try to give back to the community. We hope that the Rice community doesn’t just see us as those frat boys out there.”


Flores also said the chemistry that the team shares is a direct result of the team playing such a violent and competitive game together.


“A lot of our best friends happen to be on the team,” Flores said. “But I think I bond a little more with someone that’s out there, hitting other guys with me, sweating and bleeding. It’s definitely a brotherhood, something we take very seriously.”


The next home rugby game is on Saturday, Oct. 18 against Texas State University. Grizzaffi said it could be a crucial game for the outcome of the season.


“That could be the biggest game in terms of who wins conference, so it would be great to have a huge crowd,” Grizzaffi said. “It would pump the players up even more. Our goal is to win conference, nothing less. [This game] could turn the tide on how the conference shapes out.”


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