“Such is the devotion to English rugby football on the part of University of Pennsylvania's students from New Zealand, Australia, and England that they meet on Franklin Field at 7 o'clock every morning and practice the game. The varsity track and football squads monopolize the field to such an extent that the early hours of the morning are the only ones during which the rugby enthusiasts can play. Any time except Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a squad of 25 men may be seen running through the hardest kind of practice after which they may divide into two teams and play a hard game. Once a week, captain CC Walton, ('11), dental, who hails from New Zealand, gives the enthusiastic players a blackboard talk in which he explains the intricacies of the game in detail…”
— Daily Pennsylvanian Article, 10/22/1910
The team existed on and off during the World Wars, with the current club having its roots in the 1960s. While the current Penn Rugby team no longer has to wake up in the wee hours of the morning for practices, the tradition of hard work and enthusiasm developed by CC Walton lives on.
The University of Pennsylvania Men’s Rugby Club is looking forward to an exciting year, both on and off the field. The completion of Penn Park, sponsorship by Boathouse Sports, and acquisition of Head Coach Omar Foda, Dartmouth ’07 and Assistant Coaches Brian Dunbar and Rob Doyle have returned Penn Rugby as a top contender in the Ivy League.
Penn Park, equipped with three all purpose athletic fields and a scrum sled, has enabled Penn Men’s Rugby to train more effectively, in virtually any weather conditions, and to implement more game like situations. The inclusion of a full field air structure – deemed “The Bubble” – allows for practice and matches even in the winter. Penn Park has bolstered Penn Men’s Rugby’s status on the Penn Campus as the club grew to nearly 50 members. The increased amount of space led to the ability to have full field intrasquad matches as well as intersquad training sessions with Wharton Men’s Rugby. The addition of dedicated rugby equipment such as the scrum sled and field goal posts has helped the team improve aspects of play that were weak due to lack of facilities beforehand.
This year the University of Pennsylvania’s Men’s Rugby club sports new uniforms manufactured by Boathouse Sports. For the first time, the A and B side team kits consisted of both team jerseys as well as team shorts. Additionally, Boathouse Sports sponsored the Ivy League Seven’s tournament and provided gear access to parents across the nation through their online store. Campus presence as well alumni support surged to new heights as Penn Men’s Rugby, as well as Ivy League Rugby, took massive strides to becoming more and more like a varsity sport.
This year saw a head coach change to Omar Foda, who brought multiple years of rugby experience to the team. Assisting Coach Omar is Assistant Coaches Brian Dunbar and Rob Doyle. Both assistant coaches bring over 50 years rugby experience combined, with Coach Dunbar heavily involved in USA Rugby Super League and Coach Doyle involved in provincial rugby both in Canada and Scottland. The coaching staff implemented new changes including the start of veteran summer training camps as well as extended preseason practices. The team continues to build on its successful past year and has added a talented and diverse freshman class, with players arriving from Brazil, Canada, Thailand, Australia, the UK, and the States. Combined with the experience and leadership from last year’s A side which featured 13 underclassmen starters, Penn Men’s Rugby’s season looks especially bright.
Finally, the establishment of an Alumni board to oversee the building of an endowment fund, alumni support, and rugby equipment, headed by James Saksa, has shifted the image of Penn Men’s Rugby from an intermural club sport to a near-varsity sport. The Penn Men’s Rugby Alumni board, despite being founded just this year, is already the largest Alumni board on campus.