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Club History

Welcome to the official site of the Michigan Rugby Football Club (MRFC). Michigan Rugby has a strong tradition and a history dating back to 1876. Division II National Champions in 1994-1995, Michigan Rugby has enjoyed various successes, including numerous play-off appearances, Sweet Sixteen status in 1998 and several Sevens National Championship appearances.

Originally a part of the University of Michigan Rugby Football Club consisting of both Mens Club and Collegiate Side players, Michigan RFC was organized independently in January 2000, when the Mens Club was forced to break formal ties with the College Side as a result of USA Rugby Football Union regulations. MRFC maintains strong social and informal ties with UMRFC and is fully supportive of any UMRFC initiatives.

MRFC is based in Ann Arbor, MI and participates in the Michigan Rugby Union (http://www.michiganrfu.org), competing against teams from all over Michigan in the State Division I league. In addition, MRFC frequently travels to other Unions for friendly fixtures against teams from Ohio,Indiana and the Chicago area. The team also likes to tour and has enjoyed great success at the annual Savannah Rugby Festival held over St. Patricks Day weekend in Georgia.

Because it draws from the graduate student pool at the University of Michigan, MRFC has a strong international flavor and currently boasts players from a number of different countries. Besides providing depth for the selectors, this also makes for a healthy social environment.

If you are new to the game, or if you are a seasoned player looking for a great club in SE Michigan, please visit the Join MRFC section.

History

Rugby was first played at the University of Michigan in 1876, when the juniors challenged the seniors to a game of Rugby Union. In the years following, this event replaced the giant class-against-class ball games.

In May of 1879, Michigan defeated Racine College of Chicago the first intercollegiate rugby match played west of Pennsylvania. Sadly, after ten years had passed, the game succumbed to contamination by and eventual transformation to Grid-iron Football. (See History of Rugby.)

Rugby resurfaced on the Ann Arbor scene in 1959 when the Ann Arbor Rugby and Cricket Club was formed. Every fall and spring since that time, Rugby has been a Club sport in Ann Arbor fielding between two and four teams each Saturday during these seasons. To date, Michigan has played in some 1,350 matches and has been victorious in more than 65% of these matches.

In 1965 Michigan were the Southwest Ontario champions and won Big Ten titles in 1978, 1979, 1982 and 1984. The club was also crowned State Champions on numerous occasions throughout the 1980s.

More recently

For a decade beginning in the late eighties the team saw much success and Michigan played in Division I from 1989 until 1997. In the 1994-1995 season, Michigan won the Division II National Title and was 8-0 in league play that year, scoring 358 points and giving up only 46 points. The play-off performance was equally impressive with a 5-0 record, scoring 206 points and conceding only 63. In the final, Michigan bested San Fernando RFC 46-27.

After the sterling performance in 1994-1995, Michigan returned to Division I for the 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 seasons, and made it to the Midwest Final Eight in both years. During these years, club resources were taxed heavily by the ever increasing distances associated with travel to Division I games in the rapidly expanding Midwest league, as well as the lack of funding due to sponsorship limitations resulting from affiliation with the University.

Accordingly, the club made a decision to return to the Midwest Division II league and remains there to this day. During the 1997-1998 season the club progressed to the Sweet Sixteen phase of the play-offs and was beaten out by one-point in a nail-biting game against Las Vegas.

Michigan has also been very successful in the Sevens arena and regularly participates in the annual season of tournaments held over the summer. In recent years, the club traveled to tournaments in Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Louisville.

The club tours regularly and has made trips to British Columbia, the Bahamas, Ireland, Mardi Gras and Savannah, GA, to name but a few.

In recent years, Michigan has had two players in the US Eagles squad and has been represented by nine players in the Midwest Thunderbirds Select Side.

The future... On the field, it is the intention of MRFC to re-establish itself as the premium rugby outfit in Michigan and to once again be a major force in Midwest Rugby. To achieve this, the club intends to increase player depth through aggressive recruitment and better player retention.

One of the greatest challenges MRFC faces is that it is plagued by the transient nature of club members owing to the fact that many are professionals whose presence in Ann Arbor is temporary. Although this makes for an enriching social environment, it also makes it difficult to sustain consistency in terms of selection. The club does have initiatives in place to counter this however, and is confident that the manpower is available to perform at consistently high levels.

Off the field, one of the long term goals of MRFC is to establish itself as an outspoken and popular feature of the Ann Arbor community. The club is committed to achieving this through increased community involvement and commercial contact. Another of the clubs long-term intentions is to own a fully-equipped clubhouse and many of the activities over the next few years will be in support of this initiative.

This is a very exciting time in the history of Michigan Rugby and the club members, old boys, sponsors and patrons alike are all very optimistic about the future growth and achievements of this special club. If you're new to the area and are looking for the right team to join, look no further. Please visit the prospective player page for more information.

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