Rugby: A Sport with Heart and Respect

Ivan Gomez, Staff Writer

While many have played on one type of sports team or another, how many have scrummaged on a paddock? If one is among the ranks of rugby players, they have!

Rugby was played by the Romans almost 1,000 years ago, but was known then as harpastum. However, it was refined in 1823, according to the Exiles DTU website. Since then, it has remained one of the most popular sports in the world. It ranks as the world’s ninth most popular sport and has 410 million fans in a large number of countries. It is played by both sexes, and is broken up into seperate divisions. For teens, these divisions go from U12’s to U18’s. Rugby, unlike some other sports, requires players to use only mouth guards and cleats— no pads, no sticks. There are two types of rugby, the 15’s and 7’s. Both are very challenging and require teamwork and technique. Rugby is played on a field roughly the size of an American football field. In the 15’s (15 players a side), technique is more subtle, and victory hinges upon the very fabric that lets humans accomplish feats that are unimaginable: teamwork. The playing time is 70 to 80 minutes, and at the end, players are gasping for breath, hunched over, and may be wondering why they chose to participate. Then the euphoria of the score comes in, and a celebration follows. Possibly, the players may feel downcast for losing, but that is made sweeter by knowing they gave it their all. In 7’s (7 players a side), speed, agility, and conditioning are vital for all players. 

No matter what the position, there are chances to get the ball, pass, or run. For many, nothing is more satisfying than the feeling of their feet skimming the earth as they contest the ball with the other team. The sensation of a player lowering their shoulder for a hit, or set up to tackle the ball carrier, is unique to rugby. For 48 minutes, players run on clouds, and strive to help their team. When they pass over the line, and score a try (5 points), there is satisfaction in knowing they worked for the common good. 

As one player from the Morris Lions puts it, “This…is a brotherhood. When you have that ball in your hands, you know you’re not doing it just for you, but for your team. When you run towards the other team, it feels…exhilarating.” 

The player might hurt, but a sense of loyalty to their teammates keeps them going. There is a saying that ‘soccer is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans, and rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen.’ Players know that on and off the pitch, they represent their team. Rugby is not just a sport, but a family. Players feel like they belong, and that is because they do. 

 The coaches teach the basics and make everyone feel part of the team. Our very own athletic director, Mr. Haraka, says that rugby “requires a great deal of speed, agility, strength, and endurance… rugby players must rely on proper tackling technique and a great deal of discipline… I admire that aspect of the sport and appreciate the level of toughness rugby players must have.” 

Tackle clubs in New Jersey include the Morris Lions (Morris County), Union Mudturtles (Union County), or Base Camp Rugby (Hunterdon County). As said earlier, these are open to both boys and girls in separate divisions. There is flag rugby, which is available to grades K-8. Boys and girls play together, but the “tackle” is pulling the flag. Flag rugby clubs include the Black River Renegades, Denville Dawgs, Long Valley Wolfpack, Morristown Colonials, Parsippany Panthers, Ridge Flag Rugby, and Tri-Town Mountaineers. All information can be found on the Morris Rugby website for flag teams and Morris Lions Tackle Club.