The Hilton Head Rugby Club will open its 2011 season at 1 p.m. today with a divisional match against the rival Savannah Shamrocks at Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Hilton Head has gone undefeated in division play the past two years and won the USA Rugby South championship last year, but team spokesman Scott Wild said the Gators expect a tough test from their biggest rival.
"We expect them to be a good club this year," Wild said. "Whether or not they're the best, they're our No. 1 rival. We do not get along."
The four-team division also includes the Golden Isles Hammerheads from Brunswick, Ga., and the Macon (Ga.) Love Rugby Club.
Hilton Head finished last season 10-1 and advanced to the round of 16 in the USA Rugby Division III Championship. With most of last year's squad intact, Wild expects the Gators to contend for the division title again.
"We've had some turnover, but we've had a lot of consistency as well," Wild said. "Turnover is inevitable, with players retiring or moving away, but we pride ourselves on having capable players waiting in the wings to step in."
The team will play its first home match Feb. 19 against Golden Isles.