Steamboat Rugby Club starts season today

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— The Steamboat Rugby Club opens its season at 3 p.m. today at Vail.

The teams are traditionally the top two clubs in the Mountain League and are expected to vie for another title this season.

Last season, Steamboat won the Mountain League title on the heels of a late-season win against Vail. But Steamboat has traditionally struggled in Vail, winning just once there in the past six seasons.

“Vail is obviously one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the mountain summer league,” Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said. “We’re expecting a battle-tested Vail team we always encounter.”

Steamboat features a mix of experienced players and several newcomers. Vail returns with a new coach and multiple foreign players. Vail’s new coach, Shawn van Rensburg, played professional rugby in South Africa.

Still, Steamboat should be the team to beat.

“We’ve got a lot of really green new guys that have turned up for the first time,” Hurley said. “I think we’re in a little bit of a rebuilding phase locally. But we’ve got a pretty experienced group of core guys. It helps having experienced guys that have been there and done that.”

Hurley said anyone still interested in training or playing rugby should come to practices from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Whistler Field.

The team’s first home game is at 3 p.m. June 19 at Whistler Field against Breckenridge.

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