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Friday, September 24, 2021

Her Rugby Matters

The UC Davis women's rugby club team dominated the Chico State Wildcats, 35-5, at Russell Field to advance to the Spring Championship final in May. (BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE)
The UC Davis women’s rugby club team dominated the Chico State Wildcats, 35-5, at Russell Field to advance to the Spring Championship final in May. (BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE)

UC Davis women’s rugby club fed up with negligence after USA Rugby cancels the 2016 Division I National Championship Title game.

The UC Davis women’s rugby club team is frustrated.

From April 9 to 10, UC Davis hosted the West Coast Women’s Rugby Round of 8 Divisions I and II Playoffs. The Lady Ruggers did not just host, however. They dominated their DI opponents on both Saturday and Sunday, shutting out Washington State University, 44-0, and defeating Chico State, 35-5.

BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE
BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE

These victories advance the nationally ranked UC Davis women to the Spring Championship game at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif. on May 7 against University of Virginia. This is the first time in UC Davis history that the women’s rugby club team has qualified for a USA Rugby championship game.

You’d think with all this good news, the Aggies would be celebrating. So what exactly are the Lady Ruggers upset about?

Every year, per USA Rugby rules, the best collegiate teams on the East and West Coasts compete in two separate playoffs one in the fall for the East Coast teams and one in the spring for the West Coast teams. The champions for both fall and spring would then meet in the National Championship Title match to represent their respective coasts. However, things changed this year.

The California Aggie sat down with offensive forwards captain Caroline Sequeira, a fourth-year art studio major at UC Davis, to talk about her team’s current situation. Defensive backs captain Justine Joya could not make the meeting due to a concussion from Sunday’s game. Sequeira mentions this as if it’s not the most uncommon thing to happen. She’s used to this since she has been playing rugby long before she came to UC Davis. If anyone knows rugby, it’s her. She has seen how ugly rugby can be, both on and off the pitch.

So when USA Rugby canceled its Division I Women’s National Championship after an alleged scheduling error with fall champion University of Connecticut’s graduation, Sequeira decided she had enough and wrote an open letter on behalf of all female rugby players with the hashtag #herrugbycounts. She published the strongly-worded article to The Breakdown, a website dedicated solely to women’s rugby.

Sequeira addressed the gendered inequality and double standard that comes with being a female rugby player.

BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE
BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE

“I know that USA Rugby does not single-handedly perpetuate the stereotypes of this sport for women, but their lack of action speaks volumes of how little they value women’s rugby,” Sequeira wrote. “Furthermore, canceling a national championship perpetuates these stereotypes by denying publicity and press of what women’s rugby is really about: a community that builds support, confidence and family with one another.”

What makes this such a big deal for every women’s rugby team in the nation is that it’s not only a National Championship, but a DI National Championship. In Sequeira’s experience, she knows that this would not have happened had it been the DI men’s rugby National Championship.

According to USA Rugby and The Breakdown, the No. 6 ranked Lady Ruggers are favored to beat the No. 9 ranked Cavaliers and be crowned this year’s DI spring champions. This would have meant a potential shot at a National Title, playing against the east coast champion, UConn.

James Wilber, USA Rugby’s National Championship Series and Competitions Manager, declined to comment on the matter after various accounts and speculation of the cancellation have surfaced.

Goff Rugby Report, a website run by Alex Goff that reports on all nationwide rugby, released an article putting some of the blame on UConn for the hiccup.

UConn stated they couldn’t play due to finances, but managed to afford a trip to Scotland this spring,” Goff wrote.

He also talked about how the spring championship game should be considered the DI National Championship game. Sequeira disagrees. She thinks that her team is being cheated out of proving they’re the best in the nation.

“I would love for there to be an actual DI National Championship instead of just a spring champion and a fall champion. [What Goff wrote isn’t true],” Sequeira said. “It’s not getting any representatives from the east coast, so I couldn’t call it a National Championship because we don’t even know how we compare to the teams on the east coast. I’ve never played any of them. So how could I say it’s a National Championship?”

This sets a precedent for future women’s rugby competitions across the country. If USA Rugby is able to deprive all women’s clubs of a chance to compete in a National Championship match, then does all rugby, specifically her rugby, really count at all?

Written by Nicolette Sarmiento – sports@theaggie.org

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