BOZEMAN — The Montana State rugby team was one of the top teams in the nation in 2019 and after a lost 2020 due to COVID-19, they’re picking up right where they left off in 2021.
“It’s not easy going to practice knowing you’re not getting any games, but the tenacity of our group of guys is really inspiring to see,” said MSU junior Chinua Ogu on the lost 2020 seeason.
Last year, despite not having any games, practicing during a global pandemic was difficult.
“We couldn’t do anything," said MSU senior captain Peter Millen. "We couldn’t have more than six people touching the ball at a time. It was tricky for sure. We came out, we ran around. It sucked.”
Millen is the lone senior on the team, providing leadership to help the Bobcats start off 4-0.
“Every year since I’ve been out here, we’ve gotten more and more serious, done better on a national scale," he said. "(We've) just really been fine tuning the program and see how far we can take it.”
“He brings a lot of help to us as coaches with being able to gel the entire team together as a senior player that stuck around," said assistant coach Reza Ghassemi. "He used his redshirt for his last season so he could play his last college season here and then graduate.”
A big addition to head coach Joe Williams' staff this year is Ghassemi. He played college Rugby and won a national championship at the super league level with Life University
“That’s what we try to instill on them — it’s not about winning or losing, although we want them to win as much as possible," he said. "If they can play as a team together regardless of win or lose then that’s the purpose of the game.”
As Ghassemi said, winning is as much as possible is nice, but a lot of the players on the team are doing this out of their love for the sport. They pay out of pocket on many things and they weren’t able to schedule their classes around the practice schedule because the team didn’t know the time they could hit the turf until three days before their first one.
“They're doing all this on their own time," Ghassemi said. "Making sure that they’re getting their studies done on top of making sure they can make it to practice and or train on their own as of right now. We’ll be able to fix that for next year. Right now, it’s all on the kids and they know that their studies come first before anything else.”