Locals play D-I rugby in Aspen | SteamboatToday.com

Locals play D-I rugby in Aspen

— If it were up to Michael Hurley, every single day would include some sort of rugby.

The captain of the Steamboat Rugby team, which plays in the summer, always has had rugby in his blood.

“For me, it’s the same reason I breathe air,” Hurley said. “Without it, I would be dead.”

Now Hurley and a contingent of other locals are getting their rugby fix with the Division I Gentlemen of Aspen.

Hurly, along with locals Shane Dooley, Chris Baumann and Charlie Pappas, have played with the Gentlemen for the past couple of seasons.

After an overtime loss kept them out of the Final Four last season, Hurley said the team is back with national championship aspirations.

“Our goal is to make the Final Four,” Hurley said. “We believe we have a squad to go on and do it.”

Division I rugby is one of the highest levels of rugby competition in the country. There are 64 teams in Division I. Only the 16-team Super League boasts better competition.

Hurley and Dooley played with Aspen in September and October and are preparing for the western finals.

The team is currently ranked No. 1 in the region and will be jockeying for position in the Sweet 16.

Dooley injured his neck earlier in the year and is out for the time being. Baumann is playing rugby in New Zealand and Pappas is playing in college. All three are expected to return to the Aspen team by the time the Sweet 16 begins May 2 and 3 in Austin, Texas.

The Final Four and national title games take place May 30 and 31 in Glendale.

The team is amidst its league season now, playing teams from Denver; Boulder; Glendale; Kansas City, Mo.; and Omaha, Neb.

The top four league teams advance to the west qualifiers, where they play the top four teams from Texas. After that it’s onto the Sweet 16.

Hurley and Dooley have been making a trip to Glenwood Springs every Thursday for practice. Although all four Steamboat players will be here this summer to play for the local club, adding a national title to that would be a great way to start the summer.

“Rugby is the greatest game in the world. It’s in my blood,” Hurley said. “You want to continue to play. It’s a passion. You want to play at the highest level you can and test yourself.”

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