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Men’s rugby breaks away from pack, secures playoff spot

Dylan Wakefield

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Jeff McKinley, left, slips through two defenders in a game on Feb. 14 against San Jose State. The men's rugby team is 6-1 for the season and is ranked No. 2 in the Pacific West Conference. Photo courtesy of Jeff McKinley.

The Chico State men’s rugby team has clawed its way to a successful season, locking in the second place spot for playoffs set to take place in April.

The team made its way into the No. 2 spot in the Pacific West Conference with major wins in March over Stanford and University of Nevada, Reno, which puts their current record at 6-1.

While winning is always a bonus in sports, being a part of the rugby team at Chico State means much more than just winning, according to the players.

Being on the team is like being in a fraternity because of its brotherhood, said Charlie Brennan, senior captain.

“You got 40 guys on the roster who are all going to be buddies for life,” he said.

For senior president and fly halfback Jeff McKinley, rugby is helping him prepare for the world after he graduates in May, he said.

This local Chico State rugby brotherhood is part of a growing scene in the United States.

Football is the most popular sport in the U.S. and rugby is slowly developing as the next contact sport to takes a major role in American culture.

“I think it’s a matter of time before America adopts it more and more,” Brennan said.

Despite rugby becoming more mainstream, players still find most people don’t know much about the sport and field a lot of questions around the Chico State campus.

Junior wing Tom Patton said that people usually think it is cool that he is a rugby player when he tells them, but then go on to ask what it is and how it is played.

The rules of the game are not well known, and people tend to think of it as being similar to American football.

Similarities between the two sports include an oval ball, larger, stronger athletes, uprights, etc.

But there is no comparison between American football and rugby, said Lucas Bradbury, Chico State’s head coach, who played semiprofessionally in Australia.

Football players and rugby players have similar body builds, but the athletes are not interchangeable between the sports like many people think.

“The skills just do not transfer,” Bradbury said.

Generally speaking, football players are specialized athletes who learn a single position either on offense or on defense in a stop-and-go game.

On the other hand, rugby players play a multitude of positions on both offense and defense in a continuous game.

Rugby players have more endurance over football players, McKinley said.

But one of the things both sports have in common is that they are high contact.

Injuries are a part of the deal for athletes, but they are more common and can be more severe in a collision sport such as rugby or football.

“When you think rugby, you immediately think injuries,” McKinley said.

Nonetheless, injuries do not stop the Chico State men’s rugby team from competing at a high level.

The rugby brotherhood awaits April to go to war on the playoff battlefield.

Dylan Wakefield can be reached at [email protected] or @dylan_wakefield on Twitter.

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Men’s rugby breaks away from pack, secures playoff spot