Rugby prepares for first home game

Members of the UNA Rugby Club practice the scrum during a weekly practice at Veteran’s Park Sept. 20.

The UNA rugby team will face the University of Tennessee at Martin noon Sept. 29 at Veteran’s Park.

“I know they have good, well-experienced players,” said rugby team captain Brett Gooch. “I’m sure they will be prepared for us.”

Last season, the rugby team finished with a season of 12-5, with notable wins over Alabama, Middle Tennessee State, Lee University and Belmont.

This year, the team has defeated MTSU and Harding University.

“We have a good number of new guys this year, but, overall, we are all physically fit,” Gooch said.

Gooch, with already 25 tackles this season, finished last season with more than 150 tackles. He said he feels this year’s team is equipped with great leadership and communication.

Rugby player Michael Cole said he feels the pack is definitely one of the team’s strong points.

“We have one of the largest forward groups in our conference, and our total scrum weight is well over one ton,” Cole said.  

Cole completed 33 tackles last season before being sidelined due to injury.

Cole said UNA’s size will be an advantage over UT-Martin.

“UTM has a smaller scrum,” Cole said. “Despite having a young club, they’re using the same defense as last year.”

The Lions made it to the playoffs in 2010 and are working hard on going back, Gooch said.

“After the new members get a feel for the game, I think we’ll be fine,” Gooch said.

Cole said he hopes more people learn about and become interested in the club sport.

“It’d be really awesome to have more people come and support us,” Cole said.

The team continues to hold open tryouts every Monday and Thursday at 7 p.m. at Veteran’s Park, Gooch and Cole said.

Make sure to follow @FlorAlaSports Sept. 29 for the updates throughout the game.