By Ngozi Harrison-
“Football without pads? You must be crazy!” That’s what most people say when I tell them I like rugby. In the U.S., one of the best-kept secrets is the game of rugby. Only the lucky few who grow up with it and the equally lucky few who stumble upon it know the secret. They are all members of the same brotherhood and sisterhood of rugby. Fun Fact: Our very own President Richard Moran played rugby as an undergraduate student. When I ask most Menlo students about the rugby team, I get a response that can best be described as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I laugh and say to myself, “they don’t know what they’re missing.”
What is Rugby
The best way to explain rugby is to go back to its mythic roots at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England. One day in 1823, some teens were playing soccer when one player grew tired of kicking the ball and picked it up. The student, named William Webb Ellis, ran the ball down to his opponents goal. This is how rugby was born. One person grew tired of the old way and, on a spark of innovation, created something great.
There are many variants of Rugby with differences regarding points, field size and rules of possession. However, the basic rules are similar. The object of rugby is to run with an oval shaped ball to the opponent’s goal and score a “try.” Team members may pass the ball to each other, but passes can only be made sideways or backwards. In rugby, passes are not used to gain ground, as in American Football, but to gain a better strategic position to run to the try line. After scoring a try, the scoring team attempts a “conversion.” A conversion is similar to a field goal in football and increases the points of the attacking team if the ball is kicked through the goalposts. Rugby is a full contact sport where the defending team tackles players to prevent a try. However, rugby is not just football without pads as I mentioned earlier. The tackle technique, rules for contact, and overall experience of the game is very unique to rugby. In fact, coaches of football teams have begun to look to rugby style tackling to decrease the number of concussions that come from football’s head-first tackles.
Modern day rugby has evolved into a diverse game played across the world. Rugby Union is the largest form of the game under the international governing body, World Rugby. There are two main types of Rugby Union: 15s and 7s. Rugby 15s have fifteen men on each side, leading to a very physical and tactical game. Rugby 7s have seven players and shorter game time leading to a fast paced exciting experience. International rugby has often been dominated by England, Wales, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. However, Kenya, USA, and Japan have recently begun to grow their teams and become strong contenders in international competitions.
The Menlo College Rugby Club started at the end of the 2014-2015 school year and has brought one of the greatest sports to our campus. Currently, the club only has a competitive men’s 7s team, but they hope to grow to include women and play other forms of the game. Coach Willeo Bloomfield has an extensive rugby background and has led the club Spring 2016. The team is still developing, but it has attracted a group of dedicated players and supporters for a number of games this season. Many of the guys are former football players who miss the camaraderie of a sports team and joined to try something new. On the other hand, some are complete newcomers to a contact sport like rugby and come from baseball, basketball, or are first-time athletes. However, everyone on the team is a newcomer to rugby. As a result, most of this season has been dedicated to learning the mechanics of the game. This was beneficial because it allowed the players to develop a strong bond with one another.
Edwin Martinez, a former Menlo football player, Senior, and current Menlo Rugby Club treasurer said, “When you join the rugby team, you’re facing adversity, but you’re facing it with your brothers—it’s a culture.”
Menlo Rugby’s Future
The future of rugby looks very bright both in the U.S. and here at Menlo College. The first Pro Rugby League in the U.S. just began its first season in early April 2016 and looks to be a promising introduction of the game in the U.S. Here in California we have three teams located in San Diego, Sacramento, and San Francisco. The league also has two other teams in Denver and Ohio. This summer, U.S.’s international team (the USA Eagles) will compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics as the Rugby 7s returns to the Olympic games after being absent since 1924. Here at Menlo, four Rugby Club seniors are graduating. However, this summer Coach Bloomfield plans to do extensive recruiting for new talent. The team also has lower classmen who will return next semester ready to lead the team with experience in the game. Chris Gray, a freshman who joined the team in March, represents the future of the Menlo Rugby Club. He played baseball in high school, but says he was attracted to the physicality and brotherhood of rugby. He is not necessarily the stereotypically burly rugby player, but his size and unfamiliarity with the sport is not an obstacle. It instead provides motivation for him to continue to grow as a player
Chris’ advice to anyone considering the sport is, “What matters is on the inside, it’s about dedication. You can be a small guy or a fast guy and you have advantages with your playing style.”
To keep up with rugby this summer and learn a little bit more about the sport check out these links below:
Also, make sure to support the Menlo Rugby Club next season by attending a game or practice next semester.
For more information on the team or to find out how to join, please contact either Coach Willeo Bloomfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant Athletic Director Jonathan Surface at email@example.com.