UVU rugby battles in a game last season. Randy Nielsen/UVU Review

After enduring two disappointing seasons where UVU men’s rugby finished twelfth in 2008-09 and unranked last year, they are hungry for a shot at taking the top spot this season.

The 2007-08 season saw the men’s rugby team play in the national championship game, taking second place after losing to Radford University. Coach Josh Cooper said, “The team got a taste for the championship” in 2008, and it has stuck with them ever since.

In the U.S., rugby is still a growing sport that is struggling to find a foothold in mainstream society. Few games are televised or broadcast and high schools are only just beginning to pick up the sport.

The UVU men’s rugby roster reflects this, with only five players from last season’s team and a handful of veterans from previous seasons returning, the remainder of the team is made up entirely of new players, many with little previous playing experience.

Cooper is still confident that fall matches will go well as the new members start to catch on.

“The challenge is the football mentality,” Cooper said.

Plays are not broken up and stopped by downs, but new players often wait after each play finishes instead of progressing to the next, explained Cooper. Once they are able to apply the skills from practice and break that habit, he expects to see “some really good rugby” out of them.

The men’s rugby team wants a return trip to the championship game and, more than that, wants to come out of that game with a win and the title. All of that will depend on how well the new players are able to jump in and play well. If they can, then men’s rugby team has a good chance of doing just that.

The 2010 season kicks off on Sept. 18 in Ogden with the team taking on Weber State. They will play eight matches this fall. All of those except the matches against BYU-Idaho and Colorado State are against league opponents.

The first home game will be on Sept. 25 against Snow College, followed by BYU-Idaho on Oct. 2. Matches this fall determine the seeding for league playoffs in the spring, so each match makes a difference in the team’s championship hopes.