Rugby club pushes for growth

Candra Umunna | TheSignal
Just like football (without the pads), rugby forces its players to play hard and unafraid.

Since rugby isn’t necessarily the most tracked sport at Georgia State, a group of students decided to start a club to promote it.

On Oct. 6, the Georgia State rugby team faced Georgia Tech in the Georgia Dome, giving both teams an opportunity to expose the sport in an NFL stadium. Michael Ryan, head coach of the team, explained how this came to be.

“The former club president, Andrew Crosby, set this up,” Ryan said. “He thought it would be a good exhibition, to promote the sport, and build the club. We started this club over a year ago.”

Ryan said rugby is a sport that builds strong bonds. Also, it’s one of the toughest to play – players often are missing teeth and are covered in scratches and bruises.

“Camaraderie in rugby is something that you’ll never find in any other sport. I mean him [Drew Ryan], I met him on the field in 1988, and I’ve known Dan [MacDonald, Georgia Tech rugby head coach] for over twenty years as well,” Ryan said.

However, camaraderie isn’t the only inducement rugby has. Assistant coach Ryan Brenny said it’s a very popular sport among football and former football players because of its asperity.

“The Georgia State guys, a lot of guys who played football, or who had the opportunity to play football in college and they didn’t take it, they picked up rugby and they all like it because it’s the same contact,” Brenny said.

Coach Ryan added, “You get a big lineman, who has never touched a football before in his life. All he was supposed to do is block and now he gets to score.”

Brenny agreed, nodding along with the coach as he spoke.

“They dream of getting to run with the ball, and they’re just like, if I just could get an interception, if someone would please fumble the ball, and finally, when they are playing, they get the ball passed to them constantly.”

Georgia State has been fair to the rugby team. They’ve given the necessary equipment in order for them to continue, but haven’t fully invested in the team completely, at least not yet.

Brenny praised the university for the assistance it has given to the team.

“We get to use the practice field at MLK (Georgia State football practice facility),” Brenny said. “They’ve got the equipment the guys have asked for as far as balls, and training equipment.”

Ryan said he understands the university being cautious.

“It’s like a start-up business; the university is only going to invest so much,” Ryan said. “Once they see the results, I think they’ll be more apt to invest in the team.”

Right now, Georgia State is at the lowest level of intercollegiate rugby, sitting in division III.

Dan MacDonald has been the head coach at Georgia Tech since 1974. With knowledge on collegiate rugby around the United States, he talked about the status of other schools, showing that Georgia State has a long road ahead.

“California-Berkley, I think has contested in 35 national championships, and has won it 27 or 28 times,” MacDonald said. “BYU and Utah, and Cal-Berkley all let their football players play rugby in the spring.”

It is understandable that Georgia State is at the lowest division since it is only one year old. But Ryan said that there’s no other place to move but to a higher level.

“Where else do you go?” he said with a laugh.