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Memphis Rugby season postponed to spring

The Memphis Rugby team pushed back their anticipated fall season after Covid-19 considerations.

The decision was solidified after several team leaders, officials and representatives believed it would be wise not to compete in the fall. Memphis coach Richard Cole said numerous influences pulled the plug for the fall season.

"We are ready to go, the players are ready to go but we are being prohibited from moving forward by the University of Memphis and the conference," Cole said. 

After several teams in the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference elected to cancel their seasons, the SCRC ultimately elected not to hold any conference games at all for the fall season.

While the Tigers could compete in non-conference games if they agreed to do so, the University of Memphis prohibited the team from practicing on campus or holding in-person meetings until Sept. 19.

All of these complications gave the Tigers plenty of reasons to take a rain check on the season. Cole said when the decision was made he informed the team and any incoming recruits of the news. 

"Obviously the players were frustrated that they were not going to be able to train and practice as they had hoped for." Cole said. "The coaching staff and I were equally frustrated with the situation."

Memphis ended their spring 7s season early in March and held no summer competition, both as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fall season cancellation is now the third letdown that has struck the team. 

However, the fall season was the most anticipated after last year's results. One year ago, the Tigers were brought into the SCRC and they went undefeated in their division. Memphis would advance to the DII National playoffs in their first year as a member of SCRC. The team advanced to the Elite Eight in the playoffs and ended the year as the fourth ranked DII team in the country. 

The Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference has planned to hold the same amount and type of conference games in the spring. Until then, the team will spend the next few months separated. As of now, the team is not scheduled to hold practice together. However, coach Cole wanted that to change and said the team has to make the best of it. 

"We have provided them an off-season training program to prepare them physically with strength and endurance platforms." Cole said. "We are hopeful that we can have practice in early fall to prepare ourselves for the spring."

Senior Derek Colston said the cancellation of the fall competition was 'heartbreaking' but he understood the decision. Despite the setback, Colston feels repeating as division champions is possible. 

"We know that we’re one of the best teams in the country and to be honest I feel like we haven’t even hit our ceiling yet," Colston said. "We continue to be the best by working hard and holding each other accountable."

Colston is one of the many seniors who is not guaranteed any season matches due to the unpredictability of the Covid-19 situation. If the pandemic worsens, the season will likely not happen. Colston said he is worried most about losing his last year of eligibility.

Additionally, Colston wants to witness the team achieve greatness in his last year and continue achieving after he has graduated. 

"I want more hardware to bring back to the city," Colston said. "I want to rank even higher than we did last year. I want to see us get better in every aspect. Most importantly I want to leave here knowing I pushed my teammates hard enough to keep Memphis on the map when we’re gone."

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