Rugby bonds over games, parties

The GW men’s rugby team knows how to have a good time. And they should – in the rugby world, partying is almost as important as playing. Often extending invitations to the teams they just battled on the field, the rugby team throws parties in apartments, houses and has social events in Froggy Bottom Pub about twice a semester, inviting as many people as the local hangout can accommodate.

“After an intense game with no pads, running yourself into huge guys, you’re ready to have a drink,” junior men’s team member Andy MacWilliams said. The rugger said the well-rounded group of guys on the team ensures members come together to have a good time on and off the field.

“(We have a) busy social life together off the field,” he said. “We’re similar to a frat in the sense that we have mixers and close bonds like a brotherhood and many of us live in pockets together around campus.”

The men’s team’s latest adventure took place the last weekend of February, when the team traveled to attend a tournament at Tulane University – playing rugby didn’t get in the way of experiencing all Mardi Gras had to offer while they were in the Big Easy.

MacWilliams said there is camaraderie between the men’s and women’s teams, helping to create an intimate group at a big school.

The women’s team has its own fun without the men, with its pre-game dinners and initiation for new teammates.

“It’s a group of cool girls and after a rough day after a game, it’s great to be around your teammates who feel the same way you do,” junior Megan Malinconico said. “It’s a great combination of seriousness and fun.”

But the social life is just another plus to being a part of the team, MacWilliams said, as the team takes its play very seriously.

Rugby is divided into two 40 minute halves, each beginning with a kickoff from the middle of the field. The objective of the game is to carry the ball past the opponent’s goal line or kick the ball through the opponent’s goal posts, stopping only for injuries, goals or rule violations.

There are usually 15 players on each side, with eight forwards (players who run with the ball) and seven backs (players who try to score). A team can score in three ways. A try, when one player caries the ball over the opponent’s goal line, is worth five points. A conversion, a chance to kick the ball between the opponents’ goal post after a try, is worth two more. A drop, when a player decides to kick the ball between the opponents’ goal post, is worth three.

Many players, like MacWilliams and Malinconico, are former high school athletes drawn to the sport because of its physical intentness with less pressure than a collegiate varsity sport. Most members of both the men’s and women’s team are comprised of people with no prior rugby experience.

MacWilliams, who is heavily involved in the recruitment of new players, said “size doesn’t particularly matter; we take people of all sizes and athletic backgrounds. We’ve had some guys who have only been swimmer or tennis players, and are anywhere from 6-foot-2 to 5-foot-3.”

The men and women’s teams play conference games in the fall against teams such as American and Catholic universities and Virginia Tech, as well as spring tournaments.

The men’s spring season kicked off with the Tulane tournament, with a 34-31 loss to Florida Atlantic University. Their next tournament is this weekend at Maryland.

The women played at the University of Virginia Invitational March 8 and 9 in what Malinconico called a positive learning experience and will compete in the Cherry Blossom Tournament this Friday and Saturday on the National Mall.

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