When you discover rugby, you won’t be able to stop yourself! The game itself doesn’t stop for penalties, huddles or referee reviews. And, when most people start playing the game of rugby, they can’t stop either — it’s a passionate, tremendously energetic and fun sport. Even if you choose to become a sponsor of rugby, you’ll find yourself inexorably pulled into the fast-paced fun of the game — it’s addicting!
In his e-book, “Rugby: The Game for Life,” former pro-footballer-turned-rugger Mike Dunafon remarks that rugby was the first sport he’d ever been involved in where his teammates AND his opponents became fast friends for life. There’s camaraderie in rugby that you won’t find in other sports.
Where rugby came from
Rugby: The grandpapa of American football
Originally “invented” in England in 1823, rugby is 100 years older than American football game and, actually, was the inspiration behind its creation. Word has it that a certain individual by the name of William Webb Ellis was the first rogue to take the soccer ball in his arms and run with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game. In fact, the Rugby World Cup is still, to this day, named after Ellis.
Dublin University Football Club is the world’s oldest documented football club in any code, having been formed in 1854; it currently plays rugby union in the All-Ireland League. The Barbarian Rugby Club was founded in 1890 (admittedly, in the spur of the moment) at a Yorkshire, England oyster bar after a particularly rousing game of rugby. Its president and notable forward in the field of play, William Percey Carpmael believed that rugby should be “an attacking game” and that the Barbarians must always exhibit a style that demonstrated commitment to “hard, clean attacking rugby.”
The first motto for rugby then followed suit, established by Percy and team members as, “Rugby football is a game for gentlemen in all classes, but never for a bad sportsman in any class.”
Since its establishment, two primary factions of rugby play have emerged — rugby league, which fields two teams of 13 players, and rugby union, which fields 15 players a side. Both factions also offer a faster-moving sport called rugby sevens, providing just seven, constantly moving players per side.
Rugby: No bad sports allowed
Oddly, as rough-and-tumble as rugby might look, the sport remains a sophisticated game wherein players’ limbs and skulls remain much healthier and intact as opposed to our more impact-oriented sport of football. Underhanded play isn’t just penalized in the game — it simply isn’t allowed to return.
In yet another nod to a more sophisticated, old-world style, the rugby tradition requires that opposing team members gather prior to the actual match in suits and ties to get to know one another. Despite the many and historical clashes these players might have on the pitch (field), the majority will mention these gatherings as the most memorable moments of play. (So, what does rugby have in common with bull roping and pro football? Find out in Mike Dunafon’s e-book, “Rugby: The Game for Life.”)
Rapidly expanding through the U.S. and around the world
Now played in more than 100 countries, rugby’s highest concentration of play occurs in England, Australia, New Zealand and France, but teams from New Guinea, Wales, Fiji, Japan and — now — the United States are rapidly moving up the ranks as well. For U.S. representation, there are the Eagles, a composite of many of the country’s best club players, much like an ongoing Pro Bowl of renowned talent. The Eagles compete in the Rugby World Cup every four years. The 2015 World Cup is taking place in England.
In the U.S., rugby is a fast-growing trend with more than 700 high schools and 800 colleges fielding rugby teams. Additionally, there are nearly 3,000 adult men’s and women’s club teams in cities across America, and youth programs of under-19 teams and flag rugby are sprouting up at every turn.
Rugby in Colorado took off in 2007 with the opening of Infinity Park in Glendale, home of the Glendale Raptors. Since its opening, Infinity Park has hosted Rugby Colorado programs, USA Rugby National Championship Series and dozens of national and international rugby tournaments including the Churchill Cup, an alliance between England’s Rugby Football Union, Rugby Canada and USA Rugby. Today, Infinity Park hosts league play and elite tournaments for men’s and women’s rugby teams from across the globe.