UPDATE: Men’s and women’s rugby take the field


Marywood introduced men’s and women’s rugby teams back in February 2017. Graphic courtesy of Marywood Athletics

Nicolo Manzo

Back in February 2017, Marywood Athletics announced the addition of men’s and women’s rugby as varsity sports at Marywood.

Fast forward to present day, and the teams are taking the field.

Although the teams’ main seasons don’t come until the spring, the recent matches were historic firsts for both the men’s and women’s programs.

The road to the teams’ debuts was not without the challenges that come with starting a new program, but Director of Athletics and Recreation Dr. Mary Jo Gunning is confident in where the program is at now.

“I’m really very happy to see us having teams now and competing. This is a great first step… but there still is a long way to go,” said Gunning.

According to the Marywood Athletics website, the men’s roster sits at 16 players while the women’s side has seven. 

The next steps are heavily rooted in the man leading Marywood rugby into its inaugural season.

Men’s and Women’s Rugby Coach John Gulden is ready to get going, but also understands what is ahead of him.

According to Gulden, outside of the biggest Division I programs, rugby programs often struggle with numbers, especially in their early stages. It will be his responsibility to get commitments for Marywood’s budding program.

While the men have the players necessary for a 15-man squad, the women’s 10-player squad means that for now they are restricted to sevens competition or a more-flexible form of play.

Gulden explained that the women’s team is part of a division designed for new programs that may be short on numbers. Gunning said that the women’s division falls under the umbrella of USA Rugby.

According to Gunning, “[USA Rugby] officially is a nationwide club status. At Marywood, we are treating [women’s rugby] as a varsity.”

Gunning explained that a minimum number of teams are required for the NCAA to incorporate a sport, and women’s rugby isn’t quite there yet.

“In the NCAA structure, you have to have so many nationwide teams to actually sponsor a championship, and women’s rugby is very close. [Women’s rugby] may become under the auspices of NCAA, but we at Marywood … are treating our men’s and women’s rugby players exactly the same as all of our student athletes,” said Gunning.

Gulden said that in this division, the women’s team is “not strictly committed to a 15-season.”

In addition to Marywood treating rugby as a varsity sport, Gunning added that many other schools aren’t fully sponsoring rugby programs, but Marywood is sponsoring the program in full.

Gunning said she is ultimately satisfied with the program’s progress and is optimistic that full 15-on-15 matches aren’t far off for both teams either. She estimates that that will happen next year.

She also said she feels happy with the existing rosters and the progress being made, but also emphasized that she would encourage current students interested in the program to take part.

“We would embrace men and women that are currently at Marywood considering rugby,” said Gunning.

The fall rugby season is winding down, but Pacers fans can expect the teams’ returns in the spring.

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Twitter: @NManzoTWW