First-year athletes Rob Betsais and Chris Giunta of Fairfield University men’s club rugby have shed light on the Division I-A classified team through U.S. Rugby, and their recent experience being chosen for the National Collegiate Rugby All Star team roster. 

The men’s club rugby fall season ended with a 5-2 record in divisional play and a 6-2 overall record, according to the club’s official Instagram page. Betsais came out of Xavier High School’s nationally ranked rugby program. Giunta played at St. Augustine Preparatory School, as well as stretching his abilities at the club athletics level. 

The fall 2021 season served as the pair’s first collegiate season. With a big adjustment at hand, the key for the two players was realizing that “it’s a mental thing” per Giunta. “It’s bigger guys, more experience, faster pace, and you just have to adjust real quick,” he continued.

Betsais and Giunta accomplished just that during their first season with the Red Ruggers. Their strategic on-field play and ability to adjust impressed many, one of them being David Chatman, the rugby coach at Colgate University. In November, Chatman approached them and delivered the honorable news that they were chosen to represent the Tri-State area in the National Shield Challenge, a tournament that features the best NCR rugby players across the nation. 

As first-years, Betsais and Giunta were extremely appreciative of the chance at an amazing opportunity. Originally, the athletes did not plan to attend due to a team trip to Rome, but due to the limitations brought upon by COVID-19, it ended up getting postponed, and the opportunity to attend became a reality. Over Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend, Betsais and Giunta represented Fairfield University at the National Shield Challenge, in Houston, TX, playing for the Tri-State Vikings.

“It was an honor and a very humbling experience, being there as a first-year meant a lot,” Betsais gratefully stated. “I’m proud that I got to represent Fairfield and show out for the team.”  

Betsais and Giunta adjusted quickly to their new team and gave insight to the competition. “We saw firsthand the levels of experience different players had,” Giunta stated. “It was a huge realization how much chemistry matters within a team,” Betsais added.  

Aside from competition, the experience and players in Houston aided in the increase of Betsais’s and Giunta’s skills by pushing them to the next level. “I was able to follow in the forward of the year’s footsteps during the week and practices,” Betsais said. “I learned a lot.”

All in all, the pair noted how exciting the opportunity was for them. “It was a great learning experience,” Giunta said. “There were so many older guys [and] everyone tried their best to teach us what they knew about the game.” 

As a team, the goal for the 2022 spring season is “getting in better shape, perfecting ball skills, and open-field tackling,” per Betsais. “We’re a really strong team for the spring,” Giunta added. 

Under the guidance of head coach and recently appointed director of rugby Austin Ryan, there are high hopes for the team in seasons to come.

 “Get ready, especially going into the spring, and next fall… we have all the tools to take this program up a notch. Expect big things for the future,” Betsais explained. “I think you’ll be hearing a lot about Fairfield Rugby,” Giunta added. 

To stay up to date on Fairfield Men’s Rugby, visit their official Instagram page, @fairfieldurugby and NCR profile.

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