Western Oregon University Rugby: A Flourishing Hub of Excellence, Growth, and Inclusivity

By Maureen Brakke

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Rugby at Western Oregon University isn’t just a sport; it’s a vibrant community, an avenue for growth, and a catalyst for inclusivity. Over the years, Western has evolved into a central hub for rugby in Oregon, embracing the sport across various levels and fostering an environment that champions diversity and achievement.

The success story of Western’s club sports rugby program goes beyond the field. Established in 2001 for men and in 2004 for women, the teams quickly made their mark. The university’s club sports rugby program stands as a testament to inclusivity, with the women’s program officially named Women’s+ to warmly welcome individuals identifying as transgendered or nonbinary. This practice, prevalent in the rugby world, echoes Western’s commitment to fostering an inclusive sporting environment. The men’s team notably qualified for the national championship in 2008 and has won numerous conference and regional championships since. As a result of some very successful seasons in the last few years, they are consistently ranked in their division as one of the top National Collegiate Rugby teams. The Women’s+ team has experienced its share of achievements, securing a spot in nationals during their first year of competing. Since then, they’ve had numerous conference championships.

Rugby offers two distinct forms of gameplay. The fall season typically consists of traditional 15s rugby (15 players), while the spring season introduces the dynamic and fast-paced rugby 7s (7 players), which is also an Olympic sport that has significantly contributed to rugby’s popularity. Western proudly participates in both, fielding teams for men and women, marking their presence in both formats and proudly championed recently over Oregon State University and the University of Oregon rugby club sport teams.

Rugby enthusiasts at some point have been to Western to experience the game at every level, from youth programs to high school state championships, and extending into college-level competitions. With a strong presence at older universities, Western stands as a testament to the expanding footprint of rugby across the United States. Associate Director of Campus Recreation Andy Main explains that Western has become a well-known and appreciated institution among youth, and high school, and adult club rugby in Oregon. He adds that this is partly due to the Western rugby team’s successes but also because many of Western’s alumni coach, officiate, play, or otherwise support rugby in the state. Main adds that Western is appreciated as a reliable partner for state and regional rugby competitions as they’ve hosted national qualifiers for collegiate rugby 7s, the high school state rugby championship, adult club rugby playoffs, and training courses for rugby officials and coaches.

“It has been amazing to have had the opportunity to directly observe the WOU rugby program’s growth and success over the last six years,” said Main. “The WOU rugby players, coaches, supporters, and alumni have all helped make this level of sustained success possible, so it’s an absolute thrill to see that hard work pay off, and to see the community embrace and take pride in WOU rugby.”

Looking ahead, Western is gearing up for an action-packed spring season. The men’s team is hosting the National Collegiate Rugby qualifying tournament on March 23, 2024, with teams from across the region vying for a spot in the nationals. Plans are also underway to finalize the date for hosting the Women’s + qualifying tournament, with eyes set on the nationals in Washington, D.C., in April, should Western’s teams qualify.

Club sports cultivated by Campus Recreation at Western, including rugby, serve as platforms for leadership development, budgetary management, and invaluable experiences complementing academic pursuits. The benefits extend far beyond the field, shaping well-rounded individuals prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

At Western Oregon University, rugby isn’t just a sport; it’s a legacy, an ethos, and a community. The spirit of inclusivity, dedication to excellence, and the pursuit of growth define Western’s rugby program, echoing the university’s commitment to holistic student development.

Learn more about Western’s club sports.


About Western Oregon UniversityWestern Oregon University, established in Monmouth in 1856, proudly stands as Oregon’s oldest public university. Hosting around 4,000 students, Western embodies a mid-sized, NCAA Division II institution, with approximately 80% of its students hailing from within the state. Notably, its diverse student body comprises individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, veterans, and non-traditional learners. Western stands as the preferred campus in Oregon for those pursuing an enriching education within a nurturing, student-focused environment, characterized by faculty-led instruction.  Together we succeed.

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