Men's rugby player wears red and white with the ball in his hand.
UNL Junior Jackson Bartling possess the ball. The Men's Sevens team has had a successful season with the record at 13-1-1. Photo courtesy of Brennen Palmer.

In mid-May, the University of Nebraska Men’s Club Rugby team will travel to Kennesaw, Georgia to compete in the men’s rugby sevens national championship.

Unlike traditional rugby played during the fall semester with 15 players on both teams, sevens has only seven men on both sides and is a much faster and more intense game, Club Rugby President Brennen Palmer said. Although the field is the same size, fewer people make the game go at a much quicker pace.

“It has a lot more going on in strategy and work,” Palmer said.

The UNL junior from Colorado said this will be the first time the team will be competing in Nationals since 2019, and he is confident in the team’s abilities.

“The team has done really good this year,” Palmer said.

This season the club has held a 13-1-1 record while competing against other men’s club teams across the Midwest in the Mid-America Rugby conference, which includes Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa and Arkansas. 

Starting the spring season off, the men’s sevens team won a tournament at Creighton University, beating out Creighton, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Wayne State. Throughout the season, the team has gone on to win a showcase against UNO and a tournament with the north side of the Mid-America Rugby conference. Then after making it to the conference championship in Iowa City, the team secured an automatic bid to Nationals. 

Palmer said the team’s success can be attributed to the team’s work ethic, with two-hour practices four mornings a week, and evening practices Tuesday and Thursday nights.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of extra work to gain better skills, and also along with working on strategy and plays and just becoming a more cohesive unit to work together,” Pamer said. “The guys that show up in the mornings and are putting in the extra work have distanced themselves from others.”

Palmer said the team is looking forward to competing and playing their game at nationals in the coming weeks. The tournament starts on May 14 and will include 16 other teams from across the country.

“I mean, of course, our goal is to win it. That’s the overall goal. But I would say the biggest goal for the team is to execute our system,” Palmer said.

Although the club is not an official university sport, Palmer said it gives the boys a chance to compete at a higher level.

“It allows you to continue playing the sport, but you don’t have the rigorous training and set schedules like varsity athletes have,” Palmer said. You know, still be able to experience all of college.”

Beyond competition, Palmer said the club has been a great way for him to make friends on campus, especially coming from out of state.

“It gives you a huge group of friends already automatically, especially if you’re new to college. That’s my biggest thing,” Palmer said. “The rugby guys were probably my first group of friends that I made here at UNL.”

Bryan Stelzer is the assistant director for sports programs with the UNL campus recreation. He said that joining a sports club is a great way to feel a part of the campus.

“If you’re a student-athlete, and you are looking for that competition or just looking for a group of people that share a common interest. Club sports is a great way of doing that,” Stelzer said. 

With around 25,000 students that go to UNL, it’s a great way to make the campus feel smaller, Stelzer said.

“Nebraska is a big enough school that everyone can and should find where they belong,” Stelzer said.

The rugby team will begin play at Nationals on May 14, and the tournament will be televised on NBC and CNBC, with extra coverage on Peacock.

I'm a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln double-majoring in Journalism and Advertising with a minor in business. Throughout college I have held internships reporting for Nebraska Public Media and the Lincoln Journal Star.