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Rugby team prepares for intercollegiate season

Mel Flanagan | Monday, October 10, 2011

For sophomore Greg Allare, the challenges of playing on the Notre Dame men’s rugby club team are outweighed by the friendships between its team members.

“The guys I play with and the fun of the sport make every hour of work worth it,” Allare said.

The team consists of approximately 50 students who practice year round and play non-divisional games in the fall and the College Division IA in the spring.

Allare said the practices and games are often demanding.

“Rugby is not a small commitment,” he said. “The physical toll alone is huge, not to mention the countless hours on the field and in the weight room that [the sport] requires to play at a high level.”

Junior Ryan Mitchell agreed that one of the biggest challenges of the sport is recovering from a game.

“Everyone on the field just takes a beating, so it’s really hard to get up the next morning when you can’t walk,” he said.

The team has a busy practice schedule during the week and plays games on Fridays or Saturdays.

“We practice three times a week with a workout on Tuesday and then a yoga session on Thursday,” Mitchell said. “Although we have something going on every day, people miss practice due to class work occasionally, and the coaches understand.”

Because the team’s intercollegiate season occurs in the spring, junior David Penberthy said the commitment will increase next semester.

“Last year, we came back a week early from Winter Break and stayed on campus for Spring Break to make sure we were sharp,” he said.

Penberthy said the team has been performing well in recent years.

“Since our coach, Sean O’Leary, got here four years ago, we’ve been on quite a rise,” he said. “We started out in Division II and have made our way up to Division IA, the highest level of college rugby.”

Last year the team had a 3-3 record, beating LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee.

The team is 0-2 this season, with losses to Davenport and Air Force.

“This year may be more of a challenge because we lost 16 seniors and are breaking in a multitude of freshmen and new players,” Penberthy said.

Allare, who joined the team in August, said the unfamiliar rules are the greatest struggle of learning the sport.

“Rugby is great because it is an easy sport to pick up, but there’s still a lot of rules that I’m sure I break every time I play,” he said. “I’m not too worried though because I’ve only been playing the sport for six weeks.”

Despite the challenges, Allare said joining the team was the best decision he has made since he has been at Notre Dame.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that I decided to join the team,” he said. “I just started playing, and I already am great friends with the entire team.”

Mitchell agreed that the most rewarding aspect of rugby is meeting new people.

“You meet kids that aren’t in your dorm or your classes,” he said. “It’s a different group of guys.”

Allare said the team has already improved an incredible amount over the past few weeks.

“We play with a lot of heart and passion and we know that’s what is going to get us some huge wins in the end,” he said.