Luke Sweeney ’24
The game of rugby is growing fast here in America. While in the past it has been a game mostly dominated on the world stage by Australia, England, and New Zealand, young Americans continue to introduce rugby to their communities and find ways to enjoy the sport.
Providence College is home to a men’s and women’s club rugby team who are both extremely competitive in their regular season play.
Senior team captain, Anna LaFortune ’22, shared her feelings on the upcoming season. She said, “It’s going to be a big learning curve for a lot of our newer players this year, but we have a lot of potential to compete and win matches.”
The team will have a deep bench to work with this season, as they have 35 players to field a 15-person lineup. In recent years, they have gone into the season with less than half the amount of players.
LaFortune also says that there are a good amount of freshman and first year players that will need to undergo a learning period .
“The best way to learn the game is to play the game” LaFortune claims. She believes that as the season goes on, the team will improve more and more as their newer players more experience on the field.
With only six girls returning from the team last year, no one is complaining about the larger but younger roster. LaFortune told me that at one point during her sophomore season, they only had 13 players on the team, resorting to borrowing players from opposing teams to be able to field a full 15.
Rugby is not the best sport to have a short roster, “not having enough players can be dangerous because girls are tiring themselves out easier without substitutions and can get themselves hurt.”
Head Coach Mike Cox returns to lead the squad this year. Cox was a former rugby player at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island and coached the men’s rugby team here at PC for many years in the past.
In 2019, Coach Cox volunteered to sign on with the women’s team and has created a great program since then. The coaching staff includes two other assistant coaches who have experience playing the game.
LaFortune says that coach Cox will oftentimes have some of his friends from the rugby community drop by practices to run drills, give tips and advice, or practice strategy with the girls.
The regular season for women’s club rugby runs from September to October with two home and three away matches scheduled against Bentley University, Stonehill College, Roger Williams University, and University of Massachusetts Lowell. They will play every Saturday during this season, and LaFortune says that their recent match against Bentley was the first time the team has gotten to play since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a really hard game to learn for freshmen coming in, but everyone can tell that there is so much athleticism and potential on this year’s team.” PC lost in a close matchup to Bentley, but the match was a great experience for a young team. LaFortune let us know that this is going to be a great learning year for young players, and she expects the team to be extremely successful in the next few years.
During a match there are 15 players on each team who are broken up between forwards and backs. The forwards do the brunt of the hitting and blocking, and the backs try to get themselves into position to run with the ball and score.
Anna’s position is “Number 8,” arguably the most important position on the field. The number eight position is the only forward who has the ability to pick the ball up out of the scrum and run with it. Hitting and running ability are crucial skills when playing this position.
Practice for the women’s club rugby team takes place three to four times a week, depending on if there is a match that week or not.
Much like American football, LaFortune says it can be hard to simulate game-speed scenarios during a rugby practice because it could lead to unnecessary injury. Most of the time, practice is just touch, so you have to be able to turn on a new level of aggression during game day.
We wish the Women’s club rugby team best of luck as they embark on their 2021 fall season.
If you or anyone you know wants to get involved with the sport or learn more about it, make sure to drop by one of their home games on Oct. 2 verus Stonehill and Oct. 16 versus Roger Williams.