Women’s rugby wing Lulu Linkas ’26 has quickly become a force on the field. Last year, Linkas was part of the team’s third consecutive DIII National Intercollegiate Rugby Association Championship. This season, Bowdoin defeated Frostburg State University (55–5) and Northeastern University (57–10) with Linkas at the helm.
Although Linkas grew up comfortable on a field, rugby wasn’t always her sport. Linkas lived in England for 10 years and played soccer her whole life. Her brother played rugby recreationally in England, at the collegiate level for Bates College, for the Portland men’s team and for the Northeast Men’s Rugby team in the All Stars Collegiate Tournament, but it wasn’t until Linkas came to Bowdoin that she decided to give rugby a try herself. She walked on the team her first year.
“I feel like I got burnt out [by soccer], but I really love a team mentality and having something to work towards, a place to be every afternoon and a built-in community. So it just seemed like rugby was a great next step for me,” Linkas said.
As she honed her rugby skills, Linkas simultaneously developed an appreciation for the complex, tactical nature of the game. Although there is no doubt that both running and tackling are instrumental aspects of rugby, one of the elements Linkas loves most about the sport is that her mind must run as quickly as her legs do, considering the multitude of possibilities for what to do once the ball is in her hands.
“It’s quite an intellectual game, which is something that I don’t think you would know unless you really got on the field…. With rugby, I feel like my mind is always engaged,” Linkas said.
Linkas also appreciates the game’s physicality. In the real world, tackling someone from behind may result in some bad blood, but in the rugby world, quite the opposite is true.
“It’s an aggressive sport and you’re literally hitting people…. Breaking that barrier allows you to have super close and real relationships with people because there’s not really an option to be shy,” she said.
The team has always been highly athletic, and its focus now rests on its strategy of play, especially when it comes to reading the opposing team’s defense and knowing exactly what is happening on the field.
Linkas emphasized the direct correlation between the intimacy of the game and the intimacy that she feels among her teammates, who she cites as her biggest inspirations.
Moreover, Linkas believes that rugby’s strong spirit of camaraderie extends to members of other teams.
“I literally don’t think I’ve seen a time when both teams come off the field and there’s any animosity at all, even if you’re hitting this girl every few seconds in the game, or you completely crush the other team,” Linkas said. “You’re always going back to the team, shaking their hands and having really genuine, nice conversations with other players in a way that’s different from any other sport that I’ve played…. I think that shows the heart of the game and what it’s all about.”
Linkas also appreciates the team’s mindfulness practices. Before each game, the team engages in a visualization technique where players are asked to think deeply about the objectives for the upcoming game and enter with a positive mindset. The players sit, close their eyes and envision themselves on the field. Linkas’s nerves are often high before games, and she has found that visualization helps provide structure and extends to life beyond rugby.
“I definitely think that that intentionality is easily transferable to anything that you do in your future. Before you’re going into a test, just [be] calm and [take] a minute to envision yourself doing well. And then hopefully, you will do well,” she said.
Another team tradition Linkas particularly enjoys is electing a “Player of the Match,” and awarding the winner an original, cotton rugby jersey from one of the first Bowdoin teams to keep for the week.
“It’s really cool because you have this whole legacy of other players who were there before and made it possible for us to be at this point in women’s rugby,” Linkas said.
One can only hope that those original jerseys continue to stay in prime condition, but if they don’t, it’s possible that Linkas’s jersey may be gifted to the Player of the Match in the faraway future. Regardless, one thing is for certain: Linkas is leaving her legacy on Bowdoin rugby just as the players before her did.
Linkas and the rest of the women’s rugby team will take on Norwich University (0–1) tomorrow in Northfield, Vt.