The NC State men’s club rugby team will begin its sevens season in mid-February, after having a successful fifteens season that saw the team surpass expectations, but not win the championship. The fifteens season sees two 40-minute halves, with 15 players on each side of the pitch, whereas a regulation sevens game sees two seven-minute halves with seven players on each side of the pitch.
“There are actually big changes on the roster,” said junior club captain Darren Murphy. “With fifteens, you’re going to have a lot of your bigger guys playing, and sevens is seven minutes a half, really wide field. It’s not always as conducive for the bigger guys, especially when it comes to fitness, so in sevens a big thing we focus on is a lot of running in practice. Our team shrinks significantly because not as many guys are sevens players, in terms of style of play.”
While sevens games are shorter, there are multiple games played in a day, and fewer players on the pitch means players need to be faster to make up for the more open area. The team will play in four scheduled tournaments in this sevens season, with one friendly fifteens match scheduled against Georgia Southern at home on March 28.
“At all of the tournaments we go to, we play four or five games a day, so it is important that we have depth, that we have guys that we can rotate in and out,” Murphy said. “That’s actually something we struggle a little bit with, but it’s just something that takes everyone to put in everything they can.”
The scheduled tournaments are on Feb. 15 at Wake Forest University, Feb. 22 at the University of Maryland, a home tournament on Mar. 21 at Method Fields, and the conference championship will be held in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Apr. 18. These tournaments will feature teams from within the conference, including powerhouses like Virginia Tech and Mount St. Mary’s.
“Virginia Tech, they’re a really solid team, they have a lot of depth, a lot of experience,” Murphy said. “We traveled to VT [last season] and lost, so I think we would like to get a little bit of revenge. I would also say Mount St. Mary’s … Those are the two teams that are the two tougher ones in the conference, and those are the only teams that beat us in fifteens [last season], so we are out for revenge.”
With many of the fifteens players having to take a reduced role on the team, the team is looking to many of its other players to step up and take on more of an identity on the team. Returning from an impressive fifteens season is senior Mende Carlton, who led the team and conference in tries.
“[Carlton] was the leading try-scorer in our conference last season,” Murphy said. “He’s got some serious speed, experience; I definitely see him having a good season. Another person is [junior] Michael Abrahamse, he’s an exchange student that we have on the team who really put in a good effort in the fifteens season. Sevens is not quite what he is used to, but he’s got some serious athleticism, serious skill that I think could translate well to sevens, so we are excited to see what he can do.”
With such a talented roster on deck, the possibilities are endless for the team. Rugby joins a plethora of strong club programs that are housed by NC State, including the Icepack hockey team.
“Our home tournament, that one we would like to get a lot of people out,” Murphy said. “People do not really see rugby a lot, but sevens especially is a lot easier to watch, because games are only 14 minutes long. It’s really fast-paced, there’s a lot of scoring, so I think it would be cool to get a lot of people out for that.”
The team’s first home tournament of the season is Saturday, March 21 at Method Fields. With just one scheduled home tournament in the season, support from the Wolfpack faithful would help further this team’s confidence moving forward.