The George Mason University men’s club rugby team is gearing up for its 47th spring season.

Founded in 1965, men’s rugby is the oldest club team on campus.

by Stephen Kline

During the fall, the team plays competitively in Division II of the Potomac Rugby Union.

Games and practices are held for fun and training purposes during the spring.

“We’re all here because we love the game,” said senior civil engineering major Rawaz Mutabchi.

“We’ve had matches before where the teams were unevenly matched, so we swapped teammates so that we could keep playing.”

There were approximately 40 men on the team last fall, though the players and coaches are always looking to recruit more.

“No matter what size you are, we have a position for anybody,” said sophomore photography major Zander Shaw.

“When I first started playing, I was scared and had no idea what I was doing. The game is very natural, though. I picked it up very easily,”

Head coach Fred Bardot has been playing rugby since he was 6 years old and played professionally in France, Argentina and the United States.

For the past 10 years, he’s been coaching at Mason and working for USA Rugby to coach clinics and start new youth leagues around the country.

“While I grew up playing many other sports, I was attracted to rugby from the start,” Bardot said.

“The values of our sport — effort, friendship, sacrifice, courage and respect for yourself, the opponents and the referees — were always important to me.”

Rugby is comparable to American football and soccer.

Two teams of 15 face off with no protective padding, each trying to touch the ball down on the opposite end of the field, which is called a pitch.

“I played soccer my whole life. I kept getting kicked out of the games because I was too physical, so rugby seemed like a good opportunity,” Shaw said.

“It’s like non-stop football combined with contact soccer.”

Though the game is played without padding or protection, Shaw insists that it’s safer than football.

“Playing without pads makes you more hesitant and less likely to get injured,” Shaw said. “You learn to tackle well and use correct form.”

For the less competitive spring season, Bardot hopes to build up the young team’s skills.

Since rugby is played continuously with no time-outs, coach input during the game is very limited, and Bardot has worked to teach to team to rely on themselves during the game for decision making and team work.

by Stephen Kline

Rugby will return to the Olympics in Rio in 2016, and Bardot hopes to have athletes that can represent both the United States and Mason in the games.

“We are a pretty young team, but we increasingly get players with high school experience, so our job is easier,” Bardot said.

“At one point, Mason Rugby was playing at Division I level. We’re back down to II now,” Mutabchi said.

­­“This semester, I’d like to see us build the team and work on the fundamentals of the game so that we can return to a higher division.”

On and off the field, the team works together, describing themselves as a family away from home.

“Rugby is a brotherhood. You go out on the field and bleed with your comrades,” Shaw said.

Mason men’s rugby begins official practices for the spring season on Tuesday.

The first game is on March 24 against Marymount College.