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Iowa Central plays for national rugby crown

Photo by Paul DeCoursey Rhys Smith is a captain for the Iowa Central rugby squad.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Iowa Central rugby program will get a chance to prove themselves on the big stage this weekend.

The Tritons, who were forced to move up a division midway through the year, will take on Western Michigan for the DIAA College Rugby Fall Championship here on Sunday.

“Western Michigan is solid,” ICCC head coach Brent Nelson said. “We were able to see them in the quarterfinals down in Greenville, North Carolina. They have no real weaknesses, and they’re very fit.”

Iowa Central reached the finals with wins over Virginia Tech and defending fall champion Bowling Green. They made the DII final four last year before falling just short of their ultimate goal in the semifinals.

The Broncos earned their spot with wins over Tennessee and St. Joseph’s.

“They wore down Tennessee with pressure,” Nelson said. “WMU has a couple of forwards who are All-American caliber players, and they were right there last spring in 7s, so their backs are quite good, too. But make no mistake about it, we have some guys who can really ball as well.

“We have worked very hard to get to this match, and I think we stack up well against them.”

Nelson also is excited to have several players back competing closer to 100 percent after battling injuries during the fall.

“We have strategically used our forwards and not put too many miles on the tires, either,” he said. “So they will be fresh and rested.

“We have a great group of young leaders who keep the boys focused on rugby. Some of our freshmen have really stepped up, too.

The Iowa Central-Western Michigan match will take place at the Sportsplex of Matthews. The match is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Iowa time and air on FloRugby.

“The politics have been a struggle, but for the most part the boys have ignored them and gone out and played the game,” Nelson said. “We respect Western Michigan, but I’m not conceding anything. Our boys are ready for this opportunity.”

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