North Texas Daily

UNT rugby team competes for national championship

UNT rugby team competes for national championship

UNT rugby team competes for national championship
November 21
20:57 2013

Sebastien Perez / Contributing Writer

UNT’s 7s rugby team will compete in the Men’s Division-I College Rugby National Championship  this weekend in Greensboro, N.C., with the games televised online at ESPN3.com.

The championship will be a tournament-style event where UNT will compete against 23 other teams from across the nation. UNT and the University of Texas are the only teams from Texas, although the nearby University of Oklahoma will also be participating.

UNT has been placed in Pool A with defending champions Arkansas State University, Oregon State University and the University of Florida. UNT lost to Arkansas State 25-0 in Norman earlier this year.

“We came out just terribly, it was embarrassing,” said Steven Davidson, 7s team captain and emergency management junior. “I’m looking forward to going there and hopefully having our program a little better together where we can be a bit more efficient.”

UNT Rugby Club president and co-captain of the 7s squad, kinesiology senior Alexander Szymanowski, echoed Davidson’s words. But he said he would like a shot to play Arkansas State for personal reasons — he was not selected to be on the starting lineup for that game.

In the most recent rankings, UNT’s 7s team is ranked 22nd in the nation out of 100 schools on rugbymag.com and is the only school in Texas in the top 25. Rugbymag.com is one of the premiere rugby news websites in the United States.

This is only the third year UNT has had a 7s rugby program, said team coach Andrew Marshall. He has been coaching at UNT for 3 1/2  years and played for UNT as a student before graduating in 2010.

Although UNT did not win the Southwest Rugby Conference, it is one of 12 teams to be extended an at-large bid, along with the Georgia-based college Life University, the 2011 national champions.

“That’s based on your record and people that you’ve beaten, and that includes us beating University of Texas twice this year,” Marshall said.

The games against UT are always back and forth, Szymanowski said. Either team can win on any given day.

UNT’s 7s team competed in four tournaments this season, winning the first two then placing second and third. The fourth tournament had the strongest competition, including Arkansas State, Marshall said.

The difference between this year and previous years is the approach the team’s captains have taken, Davidson said.

“The players gave me, essentially, consent to run them the way that I wanted to run them and we worked them into the ground,” Davidson said. “Alex and I demanded nothing but perfection every time.”

From meeting at 7 a.m. for workouts, to driving long distances on weekends to find games to play, the players have put in more work than ever. Davidson said the team has come closer together this year than ever and everybody holds each other accountable and loves each other.

“I treat them like I do my soldiers,” said Davidson, who is also in the Army and was named Military Times Soldier of the Year in 2012. “The best way to get a bunch of guys to be a better team is to have them all love each other as brothers.”

The team will send 15 of its 18 players on the team to North Carolina. For each tournament, a team can only name 15 players and have only 12 per game.

UNT pays for transportation and lodging and the players pick up the rest of the tab.

Each UNT sports club is funded by the school through the student service fee, said Billy Mathew, assistant director of Intramurals and Sport Clubs. Although Marshall believes that an increase in funding is possible, Mathew said it is unlikely for one key reason.

“We’ve added more clubs. We’re up to 30 clubs now, so we haven’t been cut money but as we add more clubs, we have distribute that money out,” Mathew said.

Ethan Rueswald runs the ball past a UT player. Picture courtesy of the North Texas Rugby Facebook Page.

Ethan Rueswald runs the ball past a UT player. Picture courtesy of the North Texas Rugby Facebook Page.

The rugby club also receives a lot of alumni support to help cover what the school-funded budget can’t cover.

There two most popular styles of rugby are rugby union and 7s rugby.

Rugby union is played with 15 players on the field, formally known as the pitch, from each team. Eight players are known as forwards and are the bigger, stronger and more physical players. The other seven are known as the backs and are typically faster and more skilled players. Forwards are usually used to maintain possession and slow down the pace of the game while backs are the ones who are most often charged with getting big gains and scoring.

In 7s rugby, only three forwards and four backs play. Each half in 7s rugby lasts only seven minutes, compared to the 40-minute half in 15s rugby. The game is still played on a same sized pitch as a 15s rugby match, which measures no more than 70 meters wide and 100 meters-long with 22-meter-long try zones on each end of the field. The try zone can be compared to the end zone in football.

Because 7s is not played on a smaller pitch, there’s much more space on the field, resulting in many more breakaways and just as much scoring. The game consists of mostly sprinting for the entire 14 minute match.

“Speed, speed, speed,” Marshall said, describing the game. “The big thing about 7s is it’s the fastest, best-skilled players from the full UNT rugby club.”

All kinds of athletes are able to make great 7s players no matter how much experience they have, Marshall said. Football players have the aggression and ball-skills, wrestlers have overall strength and dexterity and track runners contribute the speed that makes great players.

Rugby practices are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Rec Sports Complex on Airport Road across from Peterbuilt.

Feature photo: Alexander Szymanowski receives a pass. Picture courtesy of the North Texas Rugby Facebook Page.

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