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Clemson men’s and women’s rugby headed to the Collegiate Rugby Championship

Clemson Rugby Club
Both the Clemson men’s and women’s club rugby teams qualified for the Collegiate Rugby Championship this weekend

On Saturday, April 19, collegiate rugby teams across the country watched and waited to determine if they would be qualified to compete in the Collegiate Rugby Championship. 

Both Clemson’s men’s and women’s club rugby teams were among the selected teams.

The women’s club rugby team won last year’s Division I tournament. After qualifying for nationals in March, the team will next travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to defend their title.

Thanks to another successful regular season, the team earned the No. 1 seed in the west for the women’s Division I club tournament. Following selection Saturday this past weekend, the team knows their path back to the championship begins against Boston College.

Last season saw a leadership change for the team as they welcomed a new coach, Kensley Bailey. Although she is a novice as a coach, she’s anything but new to the team – Bailey was a member of the team for four years from 2017 to 2020. 

The team was one of eight to qualify for the tournament last year. After advancing through pool play, Bailey led the team to a championship in her first season of coaching. This year, 16 teams qualified for the tournament, and despite the increased competition, Clemson still looks poised to make another deep run as the top seed.

The women’s club tournament kicks off Saturday at 11 a.m. as they begin their path toward defending their championship title. 

The men’s club rugby team also heads into the tournament this weekend, a year removed from a finals appearance in the Division I club tournament. The team came up just short of the championship last time, falling to San Diego 15-7.

This year, the team qualified for the Men’s Premier Cup as the No. 6 seed in the east region. Their tournament is set to begin against No. 3-seeded Michigan, and although their placement may make the team appear as an underdog, senior Cole Rinklin insists the team is anything but. 

Rinklin was named an All-American earlier this year, and he feels the team is filled with unrecognized talent ready to show what they can do on the biggest stage.

“In my opinion, guys like Justin Wade and Baylor Williams could have also easily been on that list,” Rinklin said in an interview with The Tiger. 

Now, the team has the chance to showcase their talents for a chance to win it all. With a championship on the line, Rinklin said the team is more motivated than ever to succeed in this year’s tournament.

“There are national players scouting future prospects, along with live TV coverage, it’s just the best,” he said. “We feel really good about making a big splash.”

Just a few weeks ago, a conference tournament loss left the team unsure if they would make nationals this year. After receiving their invitation, the team is ready to make the most of their opportunity.

“We came up short in the SCRC Semifinals in Knoxville a couple weekends ago. Nonetheless, we still got an invitation to play in the Premier bracket in D.C.,” Rinklin said. “We definitely are not taking it for granted, and we want to prove that we can hang with high-level programs like Indiana & Kutztown.”

It could be easy for the team to get ahead of themselves and start thinking about all the various scenarios, but the team is staying level-headed. Rinklin says they are simply taking the tournament one game at a time.

“Our first game is Michigan,” the senior said. “We’re game-planning for Michigan in practice, and they are our only focus at the moment.”

The men’s club begins their tournament this Friday at 9:20 a.m. as they look to return to the finals for the second year in a row. 

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Nathan Inman
Nathan Inman, Senior Reporter
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