WSU rugby looks toward nationals

Cougs are 1-1 this season; face Boise State, Oregon State each one more time



WSU men’s rugby poses for a team photo.

TOM ABBOTT, Evergreen sports editor

WSU rugby is a club team on campus that provides a social setting while promoting physical fitness among members in a competitive atmosphere.

Rugby has a misunderstood reputation as “football without pads,” which is far from reality.

“Rugby’s one of those games where it’s played by gentlemen, but people view it as rougher than it is,” WSU rugby president Will Suddeth said. 

As president, Suddeth helps manage the club and the club’s interests. Currently, the rugby club has about 35 members who actively participate in practices and games. The team has three practices weekly and travels on some weekends to play against other universities.

Suddeth plays the role of hook on the pitch, a central part of winning scrums. Scrums are when both teams bind together, pushing against one another until someone gains possession of the ball by kicking it backward. As a hook, Suddeth is in the center of the front row, in charge of directing his team’s momentum against the other team.

WSU rugby competes in two variations of rugby; 15s in the Fall and sevens in the Spring. Rugby 15s features two teams of 15 players each, creating a slower-paced, grittier style of play. Rugby sevens, as seen in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, is a fast-paced game with more chances of open field plays.

This year, the team changed conferences to compete in National Collegiate Rugby, or NCR. The Cougars compete in the NCR Division I and play in the Northwest division. In the Northwest division, WSU competes against both Oregon State and Boise State. 

WSU is set to take the pitch against the Beavers and the Broncos twice each before the division playoffs for 15s. The winner of the playoffs will represent the NCR at the national level as one of 16 teams competing for the national title.

The Cougars are currently 1-1 on the season following a 15-10 win at Oregon State and a 62-6 loss at Boise State.

Before coming to WSU, Suddeth had no experience with rugby. His plan was to play rugby in preparation for football walk-on tryouts the following spring. However, as Suddeth got more involved in the sport, his plans changed, and he decided to stick with rugby, now finding himself as president and one of the leaders on the team. 

Another leader on the team is recruitment chair Oliver Werner. Werner is one of the forwards on the team, in charge of pushing the ball downfield. Werner, like Suddeth, did not play rugby until coming to WSU. However, Werner became involved with the rugby team during the spring of his freshman year. 

One of two props in 15s rugby, Werner has one of the most physically demanding roles on the team. Props are typically the largest players on the field, positioned next to the hook in the first row of a scrum.

“It gives you a sense of home away from home,” Werner said. “It’s really like a second family; you always have people to talk to and hang out with. We’re all brothers at this point.”

No previous experience is needed to be part of the WSU rugby team. Practices have an open door policy, and the club is open to accepting new members any time of the year. The team practices from 7-9 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday on the South Fairway Playfield.

The next home game is set for Saturday when the Cougs will take on Oregon State.