Playing rough: An inside look at the K-State men’s rugby team

Several K-State men's rugby players tackle an opposing player during the second quarter of the rugby match against Missouri. (Dalton Wainscott l Collegian Media Group)

Staying in shape can be a challenge for many students, but that’s not an issue for the Kansas State men’s rugby team.

Rugby is one sport at K-State that many students may not know about. Rugby is a club sport, meaning it is not regulated by the NCAA like football and basketball are.

The K-State men’s rugby team still competes with club teams from other universities.

Assistant coach Danny Blea, who started at K-State in 1981 and played rugby for four-and-a-half years, said he got interested in rugby through an info booth at the K-State Student Union back in the day.

Senior Mason Fuller bleeds from his head after a rough skirmish with the opposing team at the K-State rugby match against Missouri. (Dalton Wainscott l Collegian Media Group)

While every season has its struggles, Blea said this one has been especially challenging because of a high turnover rate among players. Rugby has a reputation as a particularly violent sport, often likened to football without pads.

“There’s turnover, you have to find new players,” Blea said. “It’s a challenge to train new players.”

Although there have been issues, the team’s record is currently 5-0 in its division this season. The Wildcats played in Missouri last weekend, and this weekend they will have another seven games on Saturday followed by a division game against Iowa on Sunday.

Just like any other team, having fan support has been a major goal the team has tried to work on, Blea said.

“I think we have a network now,” Blea said. “We do a lot of PR to try to get people to come out.”

Gabe Caldas, senior in business administration, said he enjoys rugby because “there’s a certain bond between all rugby players.” He also said he loves how involved the rugby community is.

Another player, Ethan Loder, senior in marketing, said “being active, staying competitive and making relationships and friends is very important.”

Caldas said he believes it is important for people to get involved with the sport, and they should either come to games to watch and learn or to participate.

“I think everyone should participate,” Caldas said. “The games are only 15 minutes [long], and even if you don’t know the rules, it’s still fine to come to the games.”

Loder agreed that people should get involved because men’s rugby is a lot of fun.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in America, and it’s a very fast-paced and entertaining game,” Loder said.

K-State men’s rugby will have its next home game against Washington University at Memorial Stadium on Sunday, March 31 at noon.