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Women’s Rugby Comes to Wheeling University as 21st Varsity Athletic Program

Wheeling, W. Va., April 16 – After announcing the return of Women’s Lacrosse earlier this month, the Wheeling University Athletic Department continues to provide more athletic and educational opportunities for student-athletes. On Thursday Wheeling University announced the addition of Women’s Rugby as its 21st Collegiate varsity sport, beginning competition with 15’s season in the fall of 2024. Women’s Rugby has been an up-and-coming sport across the collegiate landscape and Athletic Director Carrie Hanna is excited to bring the sport to Wheeling University. 

“Wheeling has a long-standing rich tradition of Rugby,” said Hanna. “We are excited to be able to add to that history as well as expand opportunities by starting a women’s rugby program this fall.” 

College rugby has been identified as one of the fastest growing college sports in the US and one of the fastest growing sports in the nation. There are two different governing bodies for Women’s Collegiate Rugby, with teams playing in both the NCAA’s National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) and National Collegiate Rugby (NCR). The sport was marked as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women back in 2022 when it was announced rugby would be returning to the Summer Olympics in 2016. NIRA currently has 28 teams across the three divisions of the NCAA, while NCR has 43 different colleges across Division I, Division II, and Small College Rugby. 

Like Men’s Rugby, Women’s Rugby is split into two different championship seasons, with 15’s being played in the fall and 7’s being played in the spring. Also like the men, the women compete on the same size pitch and use the same size ball with all scoring rules equal. Teams are tasked with trying to get across the try line but are only allowed to throw backwards passes to get there. A try is worth five points, while the ensuing conversion kick is worth two points. There are also Penalty kicks, which are worth three points. 15’s is played in two 40-minute halves, with a 10-minute halftime, while 7’s features two seven-minute halves, with a 1–2-minute halftime. 

The Wheeling Women’s Rugby team will make their home at Bishop Schmitt Field, sharing their home with Football, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s Rugby, and Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse. Women’s Rugby will be the first new varsity program introduced by Wheeling University since they added Football during the Fall of 2018. 

A national search has now begun to name the first-ever Head Coach of the Wheeling University Women’s Rugby program. For announcements on schedule, coaches, and to sign up as an interested recruit, stay tuned to