Illinois rugby looking to be a force in Big Ten

By Carley Kulenkamp

After a rebuilding year last year, Richard Daniels, the president of the Illinois men’s rugby team, has high hopes for the Illini this year.

Illinois will be returning many experienced players including its captain, senior Matt Ramsey. Along with Ramsey, the team returns seniors Mario Lozano and Martin Giannetti to the roster.

Lozano is starting off the season playing scrum half, a new position for the veteran.

“Going into this new position, I just want to play the best that I can and transition into this new position better,” Lozano said.

Along with personal goals, Lozano also has worthwhile goals for the team. Improving as a group is high on his list, but the team has one main goal: win the Big Ten.

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After Illinois fell in Big Ten rankings last year, Giannetti, a fullback, said he hopes that if the team can’t win the conference, it finishes ranked in the top four.

Besides hoping for a great season, Giannetti has some pretty substantial personal goals he’s working toward. A native of Chile, Giannetti tried out for the national rugby squad and didn’t make it.

“I’m trying to play to make a sound here so that they will hear me all the way back in Chile to help me have a chance of being on the national squad,” he said.

Along with the returning players, there are some new faces on the team that will look to make an impact right away. Joey Lincoln is a freshman inside center that Daniels expects to help the team out this year.

The players know their primary goal is to win the conference. But in order to do that, Illinois will have to get through tough Indiana and Michigan teams.

Illinois plays Michigan at home on Oct. 31.

This weekend, Illinois kicks off its season battling defending Big Ten champion Indiana. The Hoosiers have shown their dominance this year, defeating Ball State 151-0 last week.

When asked what he hopes to see from his team this weekend, Daniels said he wants to see some fire and excitement against the favored Hoosiers.

“Regardless of the score this week, I want to see them put up a good fight and prove that they are competitors this year,” he said. “Show that this year, Illinois rugby will be a big force in the Big Ten.”

Lozano and Giannetti agreed that Saturday’s game will be a good test of the team’s season readiness.

“I would prefer to play (Indiana) later on in the season,” Giannetti said, “But having a tough test in the beginning will show us where we’re at so we can begin to plan ahead for the next teams.”

According to Lozano, the team has had some exceptional practices and pre-season games leading up to Saturday, so he believes that the Illini are well-prepared for the matchup.

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