The University of Rhode Island’s men and women’s rugby teams have been club sport staples at URI for many years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it complicated for the teams to find new players and it forced a cancellation of the fall 2020 season. 

Still, the two teams, which are founded on inclusion and participation, are pushing to be prepared for a spring season in 2021.

In a typical school year, it would be very easy to find out about and register for the men and women’s rugby teams on campus. 

“We usually have tents set up by the Memorial Union.” said Nick Hill, president of the men’s rugby team. “We are even there on First Night. We usually get a ton of sign ups but obviously we weren’t able to do that this year because of COVID.”

Despite the struggles with sign-ups, both teams have found ways to find new people who want to join the team. 

“We were still able to find people this year who wanted to play,” Erica Grasberger, women’s team president, said. “We did our best to spread the word about when our practices were and new people showed up which was awesome.”

With rugby being an all-inclusive club sport, those who are joining the team do not need to have any prior experience in rugby. Most of these new people, and most of the players on the teams in general have actually never played prior to arriving at URI. 

Hill said that for the men’s team, only four or five of the members played in high school; he estimated that 60-70% of the team had never played before. This is similar for the women’s team, but it’s an aspect of rugby at URI that Grasberger enjoys.

“We have a lot of different backgrounds and a lot of diversity on the team and I think it helps us as people and players,” she said.

In a normal year, the teams would have practices two to three times a week with tournaments or games on the weekends. Both teams play in the Liberty Conference, which consists of fellow New England universities like Tufts, University of Connecticut and University of Massachusetts Amherst along with others. 

However, COVID-19 has reared its ugly head and neither team was able to have a fall season. The obstacles haven’t stopped either team from practicing and preparing for whenever they will play next. Both Hill and Grasberger shared a similar sentiment.

“We are trying to get our fall season pushed to next semester.” said Hill. “We are working really hard to prepare for a season and I think we will be ready.”

”Right now we are just focused on improving and getting everyone up to speed with the game,” Grasberger said. “We are working hard to make our season happen and we will be prepared for it.”