The UT men’s rugby club has a shot at playing for the collegiate championship June 4 and 5 after earning a bid to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship for the first time in six years.
“Last year we had high hopes, but a rash of injuries proved too much to overcome and we fell short of our goal,” said team co-captain Logan McNeil, a master’s student in mechanical engineering. “To be able to break through this year feels absolutely amazing.”
The Volunteers will be one of two teams representing the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference, along with South Carolina. Ten of the fourteen Southeastern Conference schools are part of the SCRC, a division of USA Rugby Men’s Division.
While South Carolina edged UT in the conference finals, the bid was secured by the team’s semifinal win over longtime rival Alabama.
The Crimson Tide came in as defending champions, but UT’s 22–10 win ended their season and likely secured the tournament bid.
“Going into the game, it was apparent to us that a bid was on the line,” said team coach Marty Bradley. “It was a decisive victory. The boys rose to the occasion, that’s for sure.”
McNeil pointed out that, as a club sport, most team members came to UT for educational reasons, with participation in rugby as an afterthought.
“Players give up a lot of their free time and spend it bettering themselves on and off the field,” said McNeil. “Every member on the team recognizes that, so we go out and perform at a high level because of the trust we have in each other built by those common struggles.”
McNeil added that the camaraderie the team has built has enabled them to defeat sometimes physically superior opponents, a thought coach Bradley echoed.
“This team is incredibly trusting in each other and in the coaching staff,” said Bradley. “There’s no doubt that the sum total of this team is far greater than its parts.”
The team is competing in the sevens style rugby championships. Sevens is played during the spring with seven players against seven players for seven minute halves.
The tournament, to be held at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will consist of twenty-four of the best college teams from around the nation.
The two-day rugby festival is one of the largest gatherings of rugby teams in the world. Organizers hope the event will serve to spotlight rugby’s return to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It is scheduled to be broadcast on NBC Sports, and the team hopes to set up a viewing party in Knoxville.
C O N T A C T :
Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365, firstname.lastname@example.org)
David Goddard (865-974-0683, email@example.com)