For being a small school Xavier University Rugby Club packs a big punch. In the realm of NSCRO (National Small College Rugby Association) Xavier was ranked #2 overall in the nation for ‘16-‘17. It all started back in 1974 when Xavier University dropped their football team. A lot of players were trying to find another sport to fit in so they chose to start a rugby club. Today, they are making their mark in the Great Lakes CRC Southwest Division.
Coach Shaun Gaffney has been with the program since 2002. He said if you came to a training session in the first two weeks of the season, you’d think they were running a cross country team. “For us, it’s all about fitness. No matter what, you can always fall back on fitness. After that we really try to hit the basics.” Gaffney is helped out by his assistant coaches. The forwards are coached by Coach Eugene Reilly and assisted by Quinn Dutton. The Backs Coach is Hennie Pieters, a native South African, and designs all the practice agenda.
“Our expectations for the season are to make it to the Final Four again.” Xavier came in 3rd last year, claiming the Champions Cup and beating LSU Alexandria 32-19. “We love playing in Glendale at Infinity Park. It’ll be very tough but we have to get fitter and stick to our strategy and things just have to fall into place.”
Xavier’s last match was a decisive win over Marshall 46-21. “It was a very hard fought and physical match,” said Gaffney, “they’re always bigger and stronger than us. We like to keep the tempo high and rely on our fitness, so that’s what we did. We kept our composure and stuck to the game plan.”
Up next for Xavier is hosting Thomas More this weekend. “They are a really fit team too, so this week we are focusing on basics and resetting our defensive alignment. About 75% of our trainings are focused towards defense, fitness, and basics.”
Some players to watch this weekend are backs captain Jose Sanchez, a scrum half that has moved to flyhalf. Forwards captain Michael Smart, who had a great game against Marshall last week. Cameron Breen, a native to Scotland and has been playing center and 8-man for the squad.
Watch Xavier take on Thomas More on their home turf this Saturday, September 23 at 1PM ET.