The Alabama club rugby team is not starting its season for another three weeks, but for a brief moment Wednesday night, it was talk of Crimson Tide’s athletic program.
During his Zoom Call for Journalists with Journalists, Nick Saban indirectly delivered a shout to the club team while giving a heavy answer to a question about first-year Australian player James Burnip, a former Australian footballer who had not yet played to play a decline in American football before joining Tide for fall camp.
“Well, we basically have him to go over with the rugby team every day so he can play rugby and feel more comfortable doing so as we are so worried that he will have to play football,” Saban said dead. “He’s doing really well with the rugby part of it, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The rare joke from Saban blew up over social media as fans laughed at the head coach’s flawless delivery. Within minutes, the clip came to Alabama’s rugby team, which was just as funny of Saban’s jokes.
“It was great,” said team captain Matt Dossie. “Our group chat as a team exploded afterwards just to get that recognition from such an amazing guy. Like everyone else, we laughed about it. We have a guy who follows the football team really closely. He made a joke in the group chat like, ‘Have any of you seen Saban in training?’
“We’ve had fun with it in the group chat. We also have an alumni association and it gets thrown around there by all parents. It has really been great for us. ”
Head rugby coach Eddie Buckner admits he was not sure Saban himself knew the university had a club rugby team, but is nonetheless happy with the recognition.
“I mean, it was great,” Buckner said. “I started laughing, I thought it was hysterical. We take every kind of shout we can get. ”
Contrary to Saban’s remarks on Wednesday, he has not yet reached one of the rugby team’s drills. But in the unlikely event that the football coach is able to clear up some time in his busy schedule for the fall, he has an open invitation to come and see the rugby team on the university’s recreation areas.
“If he came out to practice, we should probably hold the players back,” Buckner said. “They should probably hold me back too. He is a brilliant coach, you can not deny that. He’s phenomenal in what he does, and there’s a lot I could learn from the guy. ”
The same goes for Burnip if his plans do not spring up on the football field.
“I was actually thinking of DMing him,” Dossie said with a laugh. “Just say, ‘Hey, the rehearsal is at five o’clock tonight if you want to be there. If you’re not on the line that stretches with us at five o’clock, there will be consequences.’
At 6-6, 215 kilos with his athletics, he would probably be our tallest guy and one of our strongest guys. He would probably play the locking position where you typically placed your taller, stronger guys, and I bet he would be a powerhouse. ”
The mix between Alabama rugby and football teams is not entirely unheard of. According to Buckner, the majority of his team played football during their high school careers with some even rejecting offers from Division II and III programs.
A handful of Alabama’s rugby players have tried for the football team in recent years, including Alfred Williams, who made the training team that ran back in 2016.
While Alabama’s football and rugby teams may be in different stratosphere in terms of notoriety, the two programs have shared similar success in recent years. Before last season’s fall and spring plans were wiped out by the pandemic, Tidevand’s rugby team was able to travel to Los Angeles in March 2020, where it won the LA Sevens tournament. The team reached another important milestone this offseason when star wing Caleb Strum was selected as No. 7 overall by Austin Gilgronis in last week’s Major League Rugby Collegiate Draft.
“It was huge for the program,” Buckner said. “Just being able to reach that level out of college is a huge deal for him and it’s also massive for our team because we’re on everyone’s radar now as a team to play for.”
Following the success of 2020, Alabama’s rugby teams rise in the ranks of the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference, a league of 13 teams divided into two divisions. Alabama is one of seven teams in the conference’s first division and will be joined by Clemson, Georgia, Kennesaw State, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. Auburn, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State and Ole Miss make up the second division.
Alabama begins its season at home against conference-newcomer Clemson on Sept. 18 at the university’s recreation area. The game is free to participate in, and Buckner encourages anyone interested in learning more about the sport to participate – especially Saban and Burnip.
“I think new fans are getting a kick out of it,” he said. “It’s incredibly exciting. It’s a game at full speed. I know Clemson comes with a purpose and a mission to make their authority known. It’s going to be a really good game. We’ll be having fun watching this year. ”