Rugby: The Love of the Game


Most Americans think of Rugby as a spinoff from a favorite American pastime: Football. However, Football is in reality a spinoff from rugby. This, however, has made it difficult for rugby to take root in America. For generations, football has been the dominant contact sport in the U.S, and who doesn’t love a good Friday night football game? Morris Hills is just one of the many public schools that do not include rugby as a club or sport. 

The majority of where rugby has taken root has been in private schools, colleges, universities, and clubs. Colleges and universities flourish mostly because of foreign student transfers, but public school programs are increasing, although slowly. Currently, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) does not sanction rugby in schools. However, this does not prohibit the growth of the game. There are numerous clubs in New Jersey, such as the Morris Lions, the Highlanders, Union Mud Turtles, and more. Rugby is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S, gaining 33 million fans as of 2017 according to a Nielson research study. There are a little more than 2000 registered clubs in the US, according to Rugby USA. America also has an Olympic Team, named the Eagles. Even though the Eagles are still relatively young and inexperienced, they have beaten more experienced teams in 7’s (7 players per team), and in 15’s (15 players per team).

The reason rugby is making a start in the United States is that Americans like the fast-paced game and the contact is exhilarating for audiences. There seems to be a certain air of danger to a contact sport that doesn’t have pads, and just as much contact, if not more, than football. 7’s in particular is eye-catching because the characteristic constant sprinting requires a certain level of fitness that is awe-inspiring. 

However, it is not just the non-stop play or the different types of games played that are advancing rugby rapidly in the States but the way players play the game. When Winston Churchill said that rugby is a “Hooligans game played by Gentlemen,” he meant it. There is almost always civility between players before, after, and during a game. It takes a certain level of responsibility from players, to keep tackles low and spirits high. Teammates hold each other in check, and for a multitude of rugby players, when a game jersey is put on, a level of responsibility is also. In this way, a rough and tumble game can be played by ‘Gentlemen,’  which doesn’t take away from the overall feel of the game, but instead, adds to it.