May 10, 2024

Bellingham will be the rugby capital of the US this May as two major events come to town

The American rugby world is converging on Bellingham this month for a pair of major events. Here’s what to know:


First, Western Washington University is hosting the Collegiate Rugby Association of America’s Men’s Division I-AA (the second tier of collegiate rugby) National Championships, May 18 and 19. The games will take place at Harrington Field. According to Paul Horne, the director of WWU’s men’s rugby team, the Vikings are one of the favorites entering the tournament.

“We’ve got ten schools coming,” Horne said in a phone call with the Bellingham Herald. “And Western (Washington) won the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference 7s so we’ll have a pretty high seed into this competition.”

As opposed to traditional rugby, which features 15 players per team and 80-minute matches, rugby 7s matches last 14 minutes and have seven players a side. Rugby is played in the seven-on-seven format at the Olympics. Western’s team competes in both formats. Single-day tickets are $10 and weekend passes are $15. They can be purchased at Western Washington’s ticket site.


The following week, the U.S. Men’s U20 National Rugby Team will start a ten-day training camp just north of Ferndale at the deWilde Rugby and Polo Fields.

The camp will start on May 20, ahead of the team’s two-game series in June against the Canada U20 team for a spot in the World Rugby Trophy competition. This year, the two rivals will face off in the Langford, British Columbia area.

“They usually have trained down in Chula Vista, which is the Olympic training center down in San Diego,” Horne said. “But we’ve invited them here with our new rugby facility operated by Chuckanut Bay Rugby out in Ferndale.”

U.S. U20 head coach Johannes Neethling Gericke stated in a news release the proximity to British Columbia played a big role in the decision to train in Whatcom County.

“Being able to assemble in the state of Washington, so close to where we will be playing, is crucial to our preparation in search of consecutive qualification,” Gericke stated.


Horne credited the Chuckanut Bay Rugby Club with making Bellingham a hub for rugby in the northwest and helping draw the U.S. national team.

“The Chuckanut Bay Rugby Club is on the map and that’s why they were able to see the benefit of coming to Bellingham,” Horne said.

With the U.S. set to host the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2031 and the women’s tournament in 2033, Horne said the game is gaining more prominence in the country. While Bellingham is already at the forefront of that push, he said this month’s events will help the local rugby scene grow even more.

“I think it will go a long way to helping us promote the game in the community,” Horne said. “I’d describe Bellingham and Whatcom County as having a strong rugby community and culture, but it certainly can be bigger.”

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