Claremont men’s rugby is tackling a return to former glory

The Claremont Colleges Men’s Rugby Team poses for a photo following a match. (Courtesy: The Claremont Colleges Men’s Rugby Team)

On Oct. 20, 1906, the first rugby match in Southern California occurred between UC Berkeley and Pomona College — reportedly attended by over 4,000 fans. 

A century since then, the squad is now known as the Claremont Colleges Men’s Rugby team, flashing a noteworthy program with a lengthy list of accolades. An impressive achievement includes being the first team to participate in both the DII 15s Championship and the National Small College Rugby Organization Championships, earning multiple wins in both prestigious events within the past decade. 

For some experienced players, like Marcos Laravello PZ ’25, wins like these have been a norm throughout his international career. 

“I know that [rugby] is not big here in the States, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Laravello, who hails from Argentina. “But I was surprised to know that the Claremont Colleges team has been winning championships for the past five years; it was great to see that the rugby culture is pretty similar to what was back home.”

Despite the similarities with engaging in a winning culture, Laravello had difficulties while making changes to his game in America. He mentioned how transitioning to 15s turns rugby into “a completely different game,” where 15s requires more roles to fill on the field. 

With the growing numbers of experienced players and progress towards returning to the field, the team has once again resumed competing in 15s this semester. 

Another hurdle for the squad was the pandemic. Coronavirus caused a huge loss in momentum built up from multiple consecutive championship years leading up to the 2019 season. The current team only includes four players from the 2019 NSCRO 15s National Championship winning team because of this setback.

Even with the initial absence of play, the team has quickly gained new traction since coming back to campus, especially with younger players joining in large numbers. Laravello said the addition of these athletes could signal a return to winning patterns.

While bringing in new players necessitates rebuilding chemistry, the team has worked together to incorporate new players into the fold, building up their confidence and creating a strong base for years to come.

This foundation could have been tested in a season opener against the University of San Diego, which was canceled due to a referee issue. Despite the slight setback, the team instead kicked off the season on Saturday.

The team took on Mira Costa College in an away game, unfortunately coming away from the challenge with a loss. Despite the defeat, Lavarello said the game was a “good test for the team, where they improved for the second half and were more defensive and assertive.” 

When reflecting on the commitments he has made while beginning the year, Lavarello explained the team’s mentality going into the season. 

“We need to have your full commitment. We need you to be there for every training, to be there for every meal, every film session that we do and every match,” Lavarello said. 

While playing this season, Lavarello also hopes to debunk some of the misassumptions surrounding rugby as well. 

“There’s a lot more rules specifically designed to keep the player safe,” he said. “Many people think it’s dangerous but there’s a lot of techniques that if you do it right, it will not hurt and you will not get hurt.”

Although no official schedule has been released, the team looks forward to tons of exciting games this season and especially in a highly anticipated season-finale clash against rivals UCSD, which will be played at home in April.

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