UW-Eau Claire’s Women’s Rugby

Rain or shine, UW-Eau Claire’s women’s rugby team isn’t going to call a practice until they’re leading the conference.


Photo by Anne Sandell

Leaving practice soaking wet and covered in mud isn’t unheard of for UW-Eau Claire’s women’s rugby team. If anything, it’s a common occurrence.

The team was founded in 1997 and has continued as a strong family unit ever since, committed to being their best. So, even if it’s pouring rain or freezing cold out, you’ll see them out on the field practicing and honing their skills for the good of the team. One year, they even played a tournament in the snow.

Last year, the women’s rugby team ended their season with four wins and two losses, with one game ending due to the opposing team forfeiting the contest. They ended the season taking third in the conference. This year, they hope to win the Great Waters Women’s Rugby Conference.

Rachel Lange, the team’s captain and president, spoke volumes on the team’s ability to work together. She believes the key to their success can be attributed to the family dynamic between the team.

“Our team is so strong. We are all really close and we have a good family dynamic going right now,” Lange said. “We had a lot of people who came back this year, so we don’t really have to do as much rebuilding.”

The team has not only strength, but a coach with experience to boot.  Their coach, Derek Wagner, originally played men’s rugby at UW-Stevens Point, going on to play with the Wisconsin state team, as well as overseas with Belsize Park.

After years of playing individually, Wagner finds coaching student athletes new to the sport to be extremely rewarding.

“They’re just like me eightyears ago,” Wagner said. “I picked up a rugby ball without knowing anything about the game.”

Lange, who first heard of rugby at the age of four and whose mother played rugby in college, knew she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps no matter where she ended up going to school.

However, that is not the case for everyone and with many club sports in college, attendance and commitment can be troublesome while students try to constantly juggle their courses, clubs/activities and personal lives.

With the new season beginning and their first game coming up Sept. 17 against UW-Lacrosse, Lange encourages anyone who’s interested to just come check it out and see what they’re about.

“Come try it, come meet us. Give it a shot. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But at least you can say you gave it a shot,” Lange said. “Anybody can play rugby, you don’t need to be super athletic, you don’t need to be athletic at all, you don’t need to be a specific skill level, you don’t need to be a specific body type, everyone is welcome to play and we’re going to have a great time,” Lange said.

Wagner couldn’t agree more.

“Women are seeing that they can be strong, aggressive and physical. The best thing about rugby is that anyone can play. Whether you are big, small, tall, skinny, you have a place on the pitch (field),” Wagner said.

UW-Eau Claire’s women’s rugby team practices on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday every week from 5 – 7 p.m at Bollinger. All are welcome to come to a practice and see what the sport is all about, no experience is necessary.

For further information Coach Wagner can be reached at: [email protected], or you can contact Rachel Lange at: [email protected]