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George Niethammer and his teammates are in the midst of a unique preseason . (Photo credits: Alex Ho) 

October 28- Arizona officially kicked off their preseason this past month under unique conditions but a high level of energy as the team prepares for the 52nd season of Rugby in Tucson.

A New World

The sport's return to the pitch is the result of a strong relationship between Campus Recreation, Campus Health, and the University of Arizona's Campus Re-entry team led by former US Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona and university President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. While the university's re-entry in August featured very few cases, a September spike on campus led to swift action from both the university and Pima County that has resulted in a steep downward curve in both cases and positivity rate. This progress, and careful planning from all three major entities has allowed some classes to start resuming in-person and for Rugby to slowly return. From regular antigen testing available to all students to wastewater testing in dorms that has made national headlines, the campus has made strides with nearly 60,000 tests to date and a positivity rate of 4.2%. In the past ten days, the campus has seen a particularly impressive continuation of progress with a positivity rate of 0.6%. "We are blessed to have incredible leadership in Campus Recreation under Troy Vaughn, and in the Campus Re-Entry team under Dr. Robbins and Dr. Carmona that have made this happen. In addition our dedicated medical team of Dianne Goodridge, Allison Leonard, Jared Gerez and Dr. Stephen Paul have created a collaborative environment that prioritizes student-athlete safety while providing a great experience" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy. 

Rugby's Return

With all of this mind and a fast-approaching 2021 season, the Wildcats returned to the pitch earlier this month with physically-distanced practices for their 60+ athletes. The university's efforts combined with regular team antigen testing and contact tracing has allowed the team to train with zero interruptions thus far. "We prepped the boys by saying that in these first few days, this won't look like Rugby out there. But the more momentum we get, the better this will look, and the more value we can extract out of this Fall" said Duffy.

Coming next...

A key piece of any season is the addition of a strong recruiting class, and this year is no different as the Wildcats' 2020 recruiting haul has already started to turn heads. Look for more details on this group, as well as the team's on-field leadership soon.

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