PLNU Rugby Club Looks to Maintain Legacy

The PLNU Rugby Club in a scrum vs. SDSU. Photo credit to Jensen French.

Twice a week, about 10 minutes from campus at the Ocean Beach Athletic Area, a group of about 10 Point Loma Nazarene University students gather for practice. From afar, it is plausible that these students are playing football, but a closer look at the wide, elongated oval-shaped ball reveals that they are playing the sport of rugby.  

Rugby is one of the most popular contact sports in the world, and at PLNU the rugby club has a history of success. After two years without a team, the PLNU rugby club is trying to get back on its feet.

The PLNU rugby club was established in 2001 and went by the Knights. In 2012,  the club received university recognition and aligned its name with the school’s mascot, the Sea Lions. 

The club played in the Gold Coast Conference of Intercollegiate Rugby, and made a name for itself. In 2005, the club finished fifth in the USA Rugby Division II. It also won back-to-back Western Region Challenge Cup Championships in 2016 and 2017. 

This year’s team is led by former US rugby player Fijian-born Bob McFadyen. McFadyen has been the head coach of PLNU’s rugby club for the past two years, but since 2020, the club has not played a full season, largely due to COVID-19 and the inability to gather enough players.

“We just haven’t had the numbers. Ever since COVID things haven’t been the same,” McFadyen said.

However, he is hopeful of the students from PLNU who have been coming out to practice with the team. 

“Seeing the kids coming out from PLNU, we’ve got a lot of talented kids. The trouble is getting them all committed to come out at one time,” McFadyen said. 

The club’s president, second-year data science major Chris Lynch, also explained the need for players. 

“We’re supposed to have about 17 to 18 [players] on a team. We’ve only been able to get about half of those people out at practices,” said Lynch. 

However, Lynch said that more players should be coming out for the spring semester, and the club has been able to add players to the team by recruiting them from community colleges that may not have a team. 

“We’re able to get [players] from local junior colleges that don’t have a rugby club,” McFadyen said. 

So far, the PLNU rugby club has recruited students from Mesa College, San Diego City College and Grossmont College. Despite the low numbers, both Lynch and McFadyen are hopeful that they’ll be able to compete in the upcoming season. If the club can pull a team together, their first game of the season is in February 2023, and the playoffs end in April.

“The first thing is to develop a team and the next thing is to be competitive,” McFadyen said. 

Lynch said that students don’t need rugby experience to join the team. One PLNU student who has no rugby experience and has been committed to the team is second-year business administration major Jensen French. French played football in high school and was looking to play a sport in college. 

“I needed to do something physical,” French said. 

Lynch explained that despite players like French having natural talent, they are still in desperate need of live rugby gameplay, so the club set up a scrimmage with University of California San Diego on Dec. 2. 

As the season commences in the following months, McFadyen explained that they hope to maintain the legacy of past PLNU rugby teams. 

McFadyen said, “We’ve got some big footsteps to follow.”

If you are interested in joining the PLNU rugby club, email Chris Lynch at

Written By: Steve Anderson