CLEVELAND — Cleveland doesn’t exactly boast rugby weather.
You can’t question the toughness of the Cleveland Crusaders—Northeast Ohio’s lone professional men’s rugby team.
“Just kinda the nature of playing Rugby in Cleveland, Ohio. 38 degree weather with freezing rain. We deal with that on a day to day basis here,” said Crusaders President Terry Kilbane.
And you certainly can’t question their results.
“We’ve got a really special group here. We have a bunch of really strong, electric athletes. Great attitudes and tough guys,” Kilbane said.
“The team has got a couple years under their belt, all together, the same crew. We’ve been itching at it the last couple years,” said 7-year Crusaders veteran Nick Diviani. “And now, we’re ready.”
The Crusaders are ready to take the next step. Cleveland travels to St. Louis Saturday to compete in the Division II USA Rugby Club National Championships.
“Probably the highest Cleveland has even been, historically, since the 1960s, when Cleveland first started playing rugby,” said Diviani.
“We really want to put a show on for the American rugby community,” said Kilbane. “We’re real excited about our chances.”
If the Crusaders can win twice this weekend, Cleveland will punch its ticket to the Division 2 final four in Atlanta in two weeks.
“To bring a men’s league of mostly Cleveland guys, we’re ready for this stage,” Diviani said.
And being on that stage puts the Crusaders with some of the sports’ top powerhouses.
“We’re one of the fresher faces on the scene, but Cleveland has a long rugby heritage,” Killbane said. “Basically, all those clubs that came before us have all built up to what we are here and what we hope to do this weekend.”
The Crusaders play the Denver Barbarians Saturday. The winner of that game will play the winner of a match featuring teams from Green Bay and Wichita.
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