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Photo by Lynne Skilken

This weekend the Boston-based women’s rugby club known as Beantown will be playing in the USA Rugby Eastern Regional Playoffs in Charlotte, NC. The competition will consist of both quarter and semifinals for the club’s Division 1 team. Beantown’s successful season and spot in the Regional Playoffs has come after a difficult decision by the team’s leaders, swapping leagues.

The Beantown Rugby Football Club was first formed in 1976; recently it had been one of the eight founding teams of USA Rugby’s Women’s Premier League (WPL) from its inception in 2009. However when this current 15s season started, back in August, the team stopped competing in the WPL. Therefore, all through the club’s regular fall season and spring playoffs, Beantown has mostly been facing competitors they haven’t played in recent years. However Beantown did make sure to schedule some friendly matches against competitive teams, including some current WPL clubs, as a way to prepare for playoffs.

Beantown’s Captain, Emily Jones, explained, "While the WPL provides high level competition, it also requires a lot of travel since the teams within the league are spread out across the country; teams can have a hard time finding enough players who are willing and financially able to commit to that kind of travel. After five years in the WPL, Beantown chose to move down out of the WPL into Division 1 for financial and personnel reasons. Ultimately, we felt this move was in the best interest of the long term growth and development of our players and our club." 

The ultimate layout of club rugby, as sanctioned by USA Rugby, is that the WPL is always made up of the top eight team’s in the nation. Division 1 is a step below, with the top two finishing teams in Division 1 having the option to challenge the top two lowest WPL teams for a spot in the WPL.

Beantown player Kelly Seary said, “In the WPL every game matters for the most part- games are more closely contested and there’s just more parity between teams. So in the fall we didn’t have many close games. So it’s just kind of a different approach. We’re a relatively young team right now, so in a sense the timing was good, in that we were able to get people into the fold and let people play up: giving them opportunities that they might no otherwise have had, so it helps in terms of player development.”

Beantown is large enough that it actually hosts two teams, a Division 1 and Division 2 squad, which is a step below the Division 1 league. Managing both teams includes four coaches and sometimes splitting up geographically and in seasonal advancement; currently the Division 1 team is still competing, while the Division 2 side has already been eliminated in playoffs.

In terms of deciding what players are a part of the Division 1 or 2 sides, Beantown has a selection process for every game. This involves a variety of factors like ability, past performances and a player’s personal interest in either Division. Moving players from Division 1 and 2 requires the club to follow specific USA Rugby regulations.

Although the Beantown club has two sides, players for either can have any variety of both athletic and life experience; the club has one current player whose 51-years-old. This year’s travel commitments have taken the team as south as New Jersey, a very different amount of travel when compared to the WPL’s teams in California, Oregon, etc.

“We have a squad of 45-50 players and we would only want to go with 17 players because $450 for a flight to be a substitute is a tough sell for a lot of people,” said Head Beantown Head Coach Richard Ashfield about traveling when the team was a part of the WPL. “Just in terms of recruitment- college players coming out with student loans and trying to find a new job and hear us saying, ‘Ok now we need you to spend $3,000 on flights in the first, three months from September until November,’ was just really hurting us.”

In addition to the challenge of recruiting new players, getting players out on the field post-winter was difficult due to Boston’s record-breaking snowfall this past winter.  Therefore in 2015 the team couldn’t play outside until the day before USA Rugby’s required deadline for CIPP, the required registration for the National Governing Body.

Going forward the team will begin its 7s season after the conclusion of 15s. If Beantown advances this weekend they will travel to Nationals in Glendale, CO on June 13, which would result in the 7s season starting on June 16. To learn more about the club visit