Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club is back training, looks toward normal summer

Gents home opener is tentatively set for June 25 at Rio Grande Park

The Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club trains on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Normalcy seems to be returning to the pitch for the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club, which this summer has put in place its most concrete schedule of matches since before the pandemic.

The Gents, who have already started training at Rio Grande Park, tentatively will play for the first time this season on June 18 at Queen City RFC in Denver.

“We feel like we can offer something this year,” said Cameron McIntyre, the longtime Aspen rugby fixture and coach who is again helping lead the side this summer. “We’ve been able to establish some stuff with some Front Range guys. We’ve got the Mountain League, which some of the other teams are still struggling to put it back together, but we managed to make a decent calendar out of it.”

Aspen played a normal season in the summer of 2019. Then came the pandemic and the entire 2020 season was canceled, including that year’s Ruggerfest tournament. Rugby returned in the summer of 2021, albeit far from in a consistent and organized fashion, before a relatively normal Ruggerfest showing last fall that ended with the Gents winning their home tournament yet again.

As of this weekend, the summer of 2022 looks like full systems go for Aspen, which will be competing primarily against Steamboat Springs and Vail for Mountain League supremacy.

“Vail have always got a little bit more organized,” McIntyre said. “My guess is that will be our main opposition for the summer. Queen City will be strong, probably stronger than Vail, but as far as our long-time rivals, Breckenridge might show something, but yeah, between Steamboat and Vail, it will definitely be Vail.”

The current schedule has the Gents hosting Steamboat on July 16 and Vail on July 23, both at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen. The Gents will then make a return trip to both sides on July 30 (Steamboat) and Aug. 6 (Vail). Aspen also will go to Steamboat Springs for the annual Cowpie tournament on July 9.

Gallery caption: Aspen Rugby Club practice

After the opener at Queen City on June 18, the Gents are scheduled to host the Waterdogs on June 25 at Rio Grande Park to open their home slate. There are open dates, notably on July 2 and Aug. 13, that McIntyre said the team could still potentially fill.

Aspen Ruggerfest is set to return for the 54th year from Sept. 15-18.

“Build through the summer and work into a little lull before Ruggerfest,” McIntyre said. “Hopefully we can get a good Ruggerfest, which we will. Every team is committing.”

As they’ve done the past few seasons, McIntyre will hand off primary coaching duties to Ben Mitchell in the coming weeks. Mitchell, who plays professionally in Major League Rugby, first took over as the team’s coach in 2019.

He’s also recently spent some time playing with the USA Eagles, the country’s national team, and McIntyre said there is a chance Mitchell could be invited to play with the Eagles on July 16 when they face Chile at Denver’s Infinity Park in a critical qualifier for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“Best thing we can ever ask for,” McIntyre said of having Mitchell back coaching the Gents. “Just a leader, an organizer and a guy they all gather around. A big influence on what the health of our club can be.”

The Gents practice most Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Rio Grande Park and are always looking for new members, regardless of playing experience.