Queens men’s rugby is off to a promising start this season, posting a 1-1 record after a hard-fought loss to Clemson this past weekend. With big games down the road against NC State and Duke University, the Royals are looking to prove their team, though new, is capable of competing with the best.
The Royals’ dense 29-man roster consists of 18 returning players and a strong recruiting class of 11 freshmen, with Frank McKinney returning as head coach. This season Queens moved up from the Southern Conference to the Cardinals Collegiate Rugby Conference (CCRC). McKinney said that the move to the CRCC will help challenge his team and push them to be better due to the improved level of play by opposing teams.
McKinney believes that his team’s biggest challenge this year will come from their youth. “We got 24 sophomores and freshman- my hope is that this young team of 24 freshman and sophomores two years from now will turn into a strong team of 24 juniors and seniors,” he said. While the strength of schedule and overall youth present challenges for this squad, they make up for it in talent.
Leading this year’s squad is senior captain Lebo Ngwenya, along with three assistant captains, sophomores Marshall Frank and Christopher Tomlinson, and junior Benjamin Clipstone.
One of the key players to watch out for on the field this season is sophomore flyhalf Stanton Johnson. Johnson came into his freshman year weighing in at 160 pounds. He put in work during the offseason, coming back in at 205 pounds and able to bench press 225 pounds during reps. “He is one of the hardest working players in the program,” said McKinney.
Another player to watch for is Ngwenya. The 5’9″ center is a leader and motivator on the field and demonstrates “a high rugby IQ,” according to McKinney.
Then there is Frank. The former high school wrestler was new to rugby last year, and during his first game ever playing the sport he scored twice. Now with a season of experience under his belt, there’s no telling what he’s going to do on the field.
The talent does not end after Johnson, Ngwenya and Frank. While these players are great, the entire roster is stacked, and the sheer depth of the roster hopes to provide an advantage for the Royals during their second season as a team and first in the CCRC.
Image courtesy of Queens Athletics.