June 3, 2011

National recognition, a packed stadium and a primetime spot on national television are elements that typically surround mainstream collegiate sports — but this summer, they will describe the unconventional LSU rugby team.

USA Sevens Rugby, the governing body for sevens rugby in the United States, announced Jan. 27 that LSU will be one of the 16 collegiate teams competing in the second-ever USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship.

Three construction management students will participate in the competition. The engineering players include LSU Rugby president, Paul Rogers; Tyler Ammerman; and Jeff Levasseur.

“It is a big honor to be able to play and compete in this great event,” said Rogers, a construction management junior from Houston. “I personally am grateful that I was chosen and will give my hardest effort to ensure we as a team exceed our expectations. It is a huge step for LSU Rugby, whether it be the large amount of recognition the club is getting or the aggressive competition that we are going to play. It is all positive for the continuing growth of the club.”

Teammate Tyler Ammerman, who has only been playing rugby since his freshman year of college, added, “I feel very honored to have the chance to represent LSU Rugby in such a high profile tournament. It means a great deal to every player and their families. Many of which are making the trip up here to watch us play. I think that having this game televised, is going to do wonders for the growth of the sport. I'm very fortunate to be a part of this, and am very excited to share this with my teammates and family.”

The tournament, which will be held at PPL Park in Philadelphia on June 4 and 5, will be broadcast live on NBC from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. CST on both dates and will mark LSU’s television debut.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Cody Cadella, director of LSU rugby. “It’s amazing how we’ve come from playing in middle school football fields to being broadcast on national television. But the work doesn’t stop here. Sevens requires a lot more long-term endurance, so we’ll have to train hard on top of training differently.”

Sevens, a 7-on-7 version of traditional 15-on-15 rugby, has become increasingly popular in the past few years following its addition to the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“The decision to add sevens rugby to the Olympics was … a catalyst for this new push to promote it in the U.S.,” said Bobby Johns, LSU rugby captain. “And I think Americans who don’t know a lot about [the sport] will love it because it’s exciting, action-packed and fast-paced.”

And fast-paced is right.

According to Cadella, unlike the regular fifteens format that consists of two 40-minute halves, sevens consists of only two seven-minute halves, requiring players to run faster, pass longer and tackle harder.

“There might be only fourteen people on the field, but the field is the same size, so it’s a lot more ground for the players to cover,” Cadella said. “It’s basically a track meet on a football field. You never rest; you’re always running.”

While coaches choose which players will make up each team, USA Sevens Rugby ultimately decides which teams get to compete. Last year, LSU was noticeably excluded from the tournament.

“They picked teams they thought would best represent the competition, and I guess that wasn’t us,” Cadella said. “But they also picked teams closer to the event in Ohio so more people would come. Because last year was [the tournament's] first year, I think it was more about attracting fans than picking the right teams.”

But, despite the reasons, Cadella and his teammates said the snub was still hard to accept.

“It was really hard for us to watch those other teams on TV last year, knowing that we were better than them,” Johns said. “This year, we’ve been given the opportunity to prove that. This is what we’ve been working toward.”

And their hard work has been paying off.

In addition to making it to the finals of the SEC championship for the past four years, LSU has been consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 teams for four years running.

And this year, the Tiger Ruggers hope to add a championship title to their impressive record.

“All of our successes finally paid off with this opportunity to showcase our talent,” Johns said. “We’ve been building the LSU rugby brand for 40 years. People see the LSU name on TV and associate it with greatness, and this year, we’ll get to show everyone that we’re great enough to be Tigers, too.”

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Article excerpted from LSU Manship graduate Natalie Roy’s original blog post. Additional engineering information added by Aariel Charbonnet, public relations graduate assistant, College of Engineering. For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, carcen6@lsu.edu or 225-578-0092.

If you would like to read the original blog post, click here



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