By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services

PULLMAN, Wash. – The undefeated Washington State University women’s rugby team will be in London Sunday to play against the world’s oldest open rugby club. Coach Christy O’Shea calls it the trip of a lifetime.

After months of planning, fundraising and training, the team – ranked seventh nationally in the most recent Division I poll – will be the first WSU sport club in over 30 years to compete internationally.

“In Europe girls start playing rugby when they’re really young, while some of our players had never touched a ball until they joined our team last September,” O’Shea said. “But rugby has become a passion for these girls and I’m excited to see how they perform against international competition.”

WSU will take on the Blackheath Football Club at Rectory Field in Charlton, south London. Founded in 1858, Blackheath is the oldest open (without restricted membership) rugby club in the world. On Tuesday, WSU will travel to Allianz Park in north London to play a professional team of players from Middlesex University and the Saracens Football Club.

The team will spend the day in between their games sightseeing in London. They will attend the women’s England vs. Scotland game at the Six Nations Tournament.

The idea for the trip was hatched during an August meeting between O’Shea and team president Monae Hendrickson. They crunched numbers and pitched the idea to the team in September. Through a combination of jobs – including car parking during football games, selling concessions at basketball games and performing work around the community – team members raised $25,000 to make the trip a reality.

One purpose of sport clubs is to foster leadership development, said Matt Shaw, assistant director of University Recreation, and the women’s rugby team, in particular, has demonstrated solid leadership in recent years.

“They have done a remarkable job handling their administrative duties and were ready to take on a larger task,” he said. “This will not only challenge them against stiffer competition, but also in the planning and decision-making that go into organizing such a big trip.”

The WSU team will travel to Stanford University for conference championships March 25-26. The Cougars have defeated Oregon State University, University of Oregon and the University of Washington twice by wide margins.