United States National Rugby Team Starter and Former Chico State Star Hangs Up Her Cleats
As Megan Foster stood on the pitch at Northland Events Centre in Whangārei, New Zealand, preparing for the United States Women’s National Team’s second match of the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup (played in October 2022 after being delayed by the pandemic), it represented the pinnacle of her career and a long-term goal finally achieved. It had been five years of practice, conditioning, training, and playing professionally around the world since she narrowly missed out on being named to the 2017 World Cup Team.
She didn’t play in the first match, a loss to Italy. Now, she was suiting up for the Eagles in a must-win match against Japan and finally had the chance to represent her country on the sport’s biggest stage, which was quite the contrast to her beginnings in rugby on a back intramural field at Chico State.
Not that she was thinking about any of that.
“Honestly, I was just eager to get on the pitch. I had been waiting for so long and was looking forward to competing against the best in the world,” said Foster (Anthropology, ’15), who donned 13 caps as the Eagles’ starting flyhalf from 2016-22.
The United States won that match 30-17.
Foster recently retired from a professional rugby career that took her around the world where she promoted the game, acted as a role model for young women in sports, and, of course, competed at the highest levels. As she looks back on her career, it is not the wins and losses she’ll remember the most. Rather, it’s the close relationships she built and the unique experiences she had with her teammates, first at Chico State as a three-time All-American and then as a professional.
“The global rugby community is small, but its reach is far,” said Foster. “It’s that community and the support I received that first drew me to the sport and has kept me going.”
A three-sport (volleyball, soccer, and basketball) high school star in Davis, California, Foster was recruited to Chico State to play soccer. After two seasons as a Wildcats goalkeeper, but in need of a change, she decided to try rugby at the urging of her roommate, who was a rugby alumna.
Though she had never formally played before, she knew some of the rules, and the vision, awareness, and kicking skills from her soccer career translated to flyhalf in rugby, a position that requires her to be a playmaker and find the open space in the field.
And what about the physicality of the full-contact sport where the players don’t wear protective gear other than a mouthguard? That fit Foster’s aggressive style as well.
“I was always the soccer player who was at risk of a yellow card or the basketball player who wasn’t afraid to use her elbow,” she said.
Though it was a difficult decision to leave varsity soccer for a club sport, Foster thrived. In 2014, she earned her first Collegiate All-America honor playing 15s, which was followed by two more All-America honors in both 15s and Sevens in 2015.
While closing in on an anthropology degree from Chico State, Foster assumed her rugby career was winding down. She was at her final collegiate All-American camp at James Madison University when she was introduced to the women’s national coach and invited to work with the Eagles.
From there, Foster earned a subsequent invite to the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and made her debut with the USA Women’s Sevens at the 2017 Dubai Sevens where the United States won the silver medal.
While a starter for the national team, she also played for the San Diego Surfers in the Women’s Premier League, the top league in the United States. With the Surfers, she won National Championships in both the 15s and Sevens and was named a WPL All-Star.
Not content with WPL success, Foster, along with a number of her Eagle teammates, spent a year playing for the Exeter Chiefs in Premiership Rugby, England’s top rugby division as they prepared for the New Zealand World Cup.
Though she’s played in the best leagues around the world, Foster is quick to point out that because rugby is a growing sport being a professional is not nearly as glamorous as one might imagine. Most of the women in the professional game hold part-time jobs while still practicing and playing five or six days a week.
Foster has worked as a consultant for skin-care company Rodan and Fields for the past seven years. It’s a job that works for her because she can do it remotely.
Foster now lives in Nashville where she is closer to her family and looking forward to starting one of her own. She is also staying involved in the sport by serving as an assistant coach for the Nashville Rugby Football Club and continues to follow the Chico State program from afar while staying in touch with past teammates.
“With rugby, I found my people at Chico State. I will always remember the early morning conditioning on the track and the road trips with 10 people crashing at a parent’s house,” said Foster. “My time at Chico State was a great beginning to this incredible journey.”