Steamboat Springs rugby player Chris Baumann, center, challenges two Wyoming players during the 2009 Cow Pie Classic Rugby Tournament championship game. The rugby club will kick off its season this year June 12 at Vail.

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Steamboat Springs rugby player Chris Baumann, center, challenges two Wyoming players during the 2009 Cow Pie Classic Rugby Tournament championship game. The rugby club will kick off its season this year June 12 at Vail.

Steamboat Rugby Club ready for season

Steamboat Springs team will look to defend titles as play kicks off

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2010 rugby schedule

June 12 at Vail, time TBA

June 19 vs. Breckenridge, 3 p.m.

June 26 vs. Glenwood Springs, 3 p.m.

July 10 host Cow Pie Classic

July 17 at Breckenridge, time TBA

July 24 at Ski Town Classic in Jackson, Wyo.

July 31 vs. Vail, 3 p.m.

Aug. 7 vs. Boulder, 3 p.m.

Aug. 14 at Glenwood Springs, time TBA

Aug. 21 at ERFU tournament in Breckenridge

Sept. 16 to 19 at RuggerFest in Aspen

— Gone are the days of being the doormat of rugby in mountain towns.

Instead, the Steamboat Rugby Club returns again this season as the team to beat in the Mountain Rugby League and for the two prestigious rugby tournament titles.

Steamboat Springs will be looking for its fourth straight Cow Pie Classic and Ski Town titles.

The men also will look to repeat as the Mountain League champions.

“The No. 1 goal is to defend the Cow Pie Classic trophy,” Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said. “That’s the heart and soul of Steamboat rugby. When we were good or bad, strong or weak, our teams always came out for the Cow Pie Classic.”

Steamboat rugby will return stalwarts in Hurley, Charlie Pappas, Shane Dooley and Bill Wernig.

The team also will feature several newcomers and foreign players.

The team practices from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Whistler Field. Hurley said anyone is welcome to come to practice, no matter his level of rugby experience.

“It’s for anyone who has ever been interested in playing rugby or just interested in getting really fit,” Hurley said. “All are welcome at rugby training.”

The team’s first game is June 12 at Vail, probably Steam­boat’s biggest competition in the Mountain League.

Vail features many of the region’s top players, some of whom just wrapped up the Division I season with an Aspen club. Hurley, who also played for the Division I Aspen club, said the June 12 opener should be a good barometer of where Steamboat stands.

In the past six seasons, Steamboat has won just once in Vail and has lost three games by less than four points.

“That will be the biggest club game of the year,” Hurley said. “Playing Vail in Vail is a tough task.”

Steamboat should get a boost from the return of coach Graham “Bushy” Muir. Muir coached the team for several years before taking last season off to finish setting up his business.

Muir has coached and played professional rugby and should provide Steamboat with another boost.

Although Steamboat will have several foreigners and new players, Hurley said again the key to Steamboat’s reaching its goals will be the return of locals who have helped turn Steamboat rugby around the past four years.

“Mostly, the team is made up of long-term locals — experienced guys who have been around for a while,” he said. “It’s still more relying on homegrown talent. It’s the local kids we’ve always relied on.”

— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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