Life is welcoming Florida State and Georgia to Marietta, Ga. Saturday for a friendly afternoon of preseason college rugby.
Georgia was hit hard by attrition over the winter break, losing 11 starters to graduation, injury, etc. The biggest loss was Will Farrell, who is retiring from rugby due to mounting concussions. The former High School All American will be sorely missed by the Bulldogs.
Georgia will play a series of shortened halves against Life’s and FSU’s reserve sides, Life’s seconds will play a shortened half with the Seminoles seconds, and the climax of the afternoon will be a full 80-minute contest between Life’s top team and Florida State’s top team. Saturday will mark the first 15s match between Life’s undergrads and FSU.
“It’s obviously a litmus test to see where we’re at. A team of such high caliber in such close proximity to Tallahassee, you’ve got to go play them,” said Florida State coach Kirk Swanner, who recently started in the USA Rugby South’s big win over Mexico on Life’s home grounds.
“We’re going to go up there to see where our program’s at. It’s not about the score line for us. It’s about how many minutes we can put together playing at our maximum potential, because anything below maximum potential against Life is going to be a tough day. If we can just go up there and put together the best we have, and try our hardest and see where we’re at, it’ll be a good day for us.”
Florida State played little 15s in the fall, but the ‘Noles did score road wins against North Carolina and Clemson while touring up the East Coast. Like Georgia, though, Florida State lost its best player over winter break, Steve Wertepny, to academic issues. They also lost Jason Kinsley, a big contributor, for the same reason.
Luckily, Florida State has an experienced player stepping in at fullback in Gianluca Gombar, an Italian student. “I think he can be exciting to watch,” said Swanner of Gombar. “We’re not going to have a big drop off point-production-wise from fullback.”
This is just one of the many inter-divisional college matches being played this week. Look for new all division rankings early next week.