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USF Rugby Club hopes to build on spring success

After a strong spring season, the USF Rugby Club has one goal in mind entering 2009: gaining promotion to the Division I level.

The team finished with a 12-1 record and won the USA Rugby South Championships by defeating East Carolina 27-24 in March, which helped gain it a spot in the nation’s final 16.

USF beat Colorado School of the Mines in the final 16, then lost to Middlebury in the final eight April 19, ending its season.

The team plays in Division II, but coach Gordon Campbell said he’s hoping USF’s strong showing can help move the team up.

“After winning the Division II  South Championships, we’d obviously like to be playing
Division I,” Campbell said. “Division I (teams) are more outside of the state of Florida. We would play teams like Arkansas State, Tennessee, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, those types of schools.”

Though USF played UCF this spring, beating them twice handily, it also faced schools like Maritime Academy, North Florida, Embry Riddle and Kennesaw State.

Campbell, who’s entering his fifth season as rugby coach at USF, is a native of Sydney, Australia and played the sport for about 17 years back home. He said the team has grown a lot since he’s been at the school.

“USF had a good team, but it had gone into dormancy for a year or two,” he said. “Basically, the whole team restarted in spring of 2005, and I came in as coach in fall of ’05.”

The rugby team participates in three different seasons — fall, spring and summer. Practices and games are held on USF’s recreational fields.

The team has about 40 players, and Campbell said anyone interested in joining can attend a practice or get information at the team’s Web site,

“All anyone really needs to do is be interested and we’ll teach them how to play the game,” Campbell said.