GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG Men’s Rugby Club is setting themselves up for their fourth and final tournament at Elon University on April 14. The club’s president and hooker (a position in the scrum), junior Jared Lee, spoke to the Carolinian about his team’s outlook;
“Right now, UNCG rugby is a good team. Elon will be our chance to show it” he said proudly. “This team has put the work in and we’re gonna reap the benefits. I’m very confident about that.”
The pressure is most definitely on for Lee, and his players. The core of which are a band of international exchange students, and they are hungry for a win, so they told the Carolinian. A hunger that Lee can not ignore;
“We haven’t been winning so much, but we have been improving” Lee said. “The team is so new. We’ve won a few games but we’re raising the standards and will definitely get some wins in at Elon.”
Lee has the right to call the team new. He played for his high school in Kobe-shi, Japan, before coming back across to his home country to study international business. He joined UNCG Men’s Rugby club in the fall of 2015 and started out in the flanks of the scrum. As players graduated and his experience of the game grew, Lee moved into the very heart of the scrum; the hooker. He has been with the team during highs and lows. More lows than highs, he acknowledges.
Recently, the team was abruptly and wrongfully left out of a league tournament in The Citadel by the Southern Conference Director in favour of out of league teams. This, coupled with the weather interfering with the team’s ability to practice properly on the rec field, has presented the team with both a morale issue and a skill issue. In spite of this, Lee is optimistic about the upcoming Elon tournament.
“Elon will show us who is at our skill level. At Elon we will have the best guys, in the best shape, playing the best rugby with the best teamwork we have had this season this far,” he boasts.
Regardless, the culture of rugby is contagious, and the friendship these men have remain strong. Sam Cole, a graduate student and academic advisor, called the rugby team a “Crucible of Friendship.” He recounts the days when himself and the writer sat in the ER for hours, refusing to be split apart to be examined for separate head injuries. Lee then began to talk about his players;
“The people on the team really work hard for the team” he beams proudly at them. They beam back. “We have a lot of fun. I’d love for [everyone in] the school to know everyone on the team, because I love knowing everyone on the team.”
The team also knows the pressure. Not only do they have to fear the wrath of their enigmatic coaches – Steve ‘Guido’ Ackrish and Jacob ‘Jake’ Roberts if they fail to perform to their standards, they also have a legion of UNCG rugby alumni to answer to. This has recently been reinforced with the team’s 40th anniversary of being a club on UNCG campus. The alumni weekend usually consists of a player/alumni vs player/alumni pool tournament, followed by the alumni versus player match on the rec field. This event draws a lot of alumni, and they are passionate about UNCG rugby. It was amplified by the 40th anniversary.
In the meantime, Lee assured the Carolinian, the team are training hard and are keeping their spirits high in order to bring back the best results that they can from the Elon tournament. The tournament will take place at Elon’s recreational fields on the 14th of April.