Clemson Club Rugby: Back-to-back Undefeated Conference Champs

The Clemson University club rugby team had a very successful season this fall.

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Team accomplishments include:

  • Second consecutive undefeated conference season
  • Back-to-back Atlantic Coast Rugby Championships
  • American Collegiate Rugby Championship Bowl Series win over South Carolina 40–14.

Individual accomplishments include:

  • 2014 Honorable Mention All American–Jason Damm
  • 2014 Atlantic Coast Rugby League MVP–Max Simons
  • 2014 Atlantic Coast Rugby League Freshman of the Year–Drew Dommel
  • 2014 Academic All American–Rion Tapp.

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While the team has had numerous on-field accomplishments, it is the academic accomplishments that Coach Justin Hickey wants to be recognized. For example, to be an Academic All American, athletes must be a regular starter on the field and have a cumulative 3.7 GPA or higher. Clemson’s Rion Tapp has received this honor as a junior and as a senior.

In South Carolina, rugby is only played in approximately eight to ten high schools. However, interest in the sport is growing rapidly. What is it about this sport that makes it attractive to young men and women across the nation?

Rugby is a sport that combines all other sports. Even if an athlete did not grow up playing it, it is easy to pick up, especially with the help of fellow teammates. Rugby encompasses football, basketball and soccer. It combines running, jumping, passing and kicking into one physically demanding sport.

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Although rugby is extremely competitive, it comes down to camaraderie. Individuals on the club rugby team grow close with their fellow teammates. It does not end there though. There is also a shared mutual respect with rivals, as the sport is all about sportsmanship. Typically, the home team will feed the visiting team following the match, allowing the athletes to socialize with one another.

As an added benefit to being a member of the rugby team, there are student leadership opportunities available to manage the club. Students are responsible for arranging travel and financial plans.

DSC09152Another benefit is the opportunity to professionally network due to the strong alumni connections of previous club rugby athletes. These professionals sometimes contact Coach Hickey with job opportunities for the players.  In a way, there is a business club within the rugby team.

Coach Hickey is very proud of his team, as they have come a long way since his arrival four years ago. The club now has over 60 members. These young men are motivated and work really hard. They practice everyday, study film and use the weight room. However, Coach Hickey is most proud of the students’ academic accomplishments. Whether the athletes go to graduate school or enter the professional fields, he is always rooting for them.

DSC09237The rugby team welcomes other interested students to join the club. The starting roster contains athletes who have never played the sport before. It does not matter whether you start freshman year of high school or junior year of college—at some point you are learning the sport. Other experienced members of the team will also help those who have never played before because they want to see the team succeed.

Although most of the season takes place in the fall, there are a few events happening this semester. The Tigers are currently competing in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Championship Tournament. The Rugby team won the first around against Arkansas State to advance on to the Quarterfinals. The Quarterfinals will be on April 11th, and Clemson will compete against Navy. The team will also compete in the Atlantic Coast Rugby Sevens Championships on April 18–19. The winner will advance to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships, which will be featured live on NBC later this spring. Way to go men’s club rugby!

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For more information check out the Clemson Club Rugby website at http://www.clemsonrugby.com, follow them on Twitter at @ClemsonRugby, or like them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/clemsonrugby

(All photos courtesy of Jim Sullivan and Clemson Rugby)

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