CU rugby to play on big stage for rivalry game

The CU men’s rugby team is opening its 2012 Division I season on a big stage against an even bigger rival. The Buffaloes face the Colorado State Rams on Saturday at Infinity Park at Glendale.

The team says the tension between CU and CSU is the same in every sport. They definitely don’t plan on making friends with the competition.

“We love to play them, but we don’t like them,” team captain Luke Lahman says. “It’s always a hard fought game.”

The last time the teams met, the Buffs soundly beat the Rams, 39-13. But the team isn’t ready to discount its in-state rival.

“It’s always been a huge rivalry for us, because it’s always been competitive games,” club president Lance King says. “The biggest key this year is just us coming out as a team and sticking together. I think if we can do that, we’ll be really successful on Saturday.”

Lahman says in the fall match-up, the team held out a lot of starters, and has since added new players. He hopes the team is better now than it was five months ago.

King says the team has put in a lot of time and effort during the offseason. Despite tough pre-season games against the Denver Barbarians and the Boulder RFC, King expects that if the players come out and play hard, they’ll have a successful season.

“We’re all really excited for it,” King says.

Players are also excited to play on an actual rugby pitch at Infinity Park at Glendale. Lahman says the park is the first rugby-sanctioned stadium in the United States. He says playing on the pitch adds to the game experience.

“The biggest thing is just the atmosphere at Glendale,” Lahman says. “When you get in there, you realize it is a real rugby stadium … It’s just a whole different feeling than playing on a regular field.”

King adds that the park provides a good atmosphere for the fans as well as upping the ante for the players.

“Yes it is a rivalry game,” King says, “but getting to play it at Glendale puts it on a bigger stage.”

Lahman and King, who are both Colorado natives, say rugby is becoming very popular in the state, with more people joining the team and coming to games.

After the CU game, the spring 2011 DI champion Glendale Raptors will face the Chicago Griffins. With such high caliber teams playing at the park, Lahman says Colorado is definitely a growing hot spot for rugby.

On the state’s biggest stage, the stakes are high for the CU-CSU rivalry game, and King has some friendly advice for the younger players on his team.

“Be ready,” King says. “It’s a big game and it’s a rivalry, but it’s fun at the same time. It doesn’t get any bigger than it does on Saturday.”

By Marlee Horn for the Colorado Daily