COLUMBIA — It was a dark, dreary and drizzly Thursday evening at Stankowski Field. However, the spirits of the University of Missouri Rugby Club were still high. The scene was full of giant men, colorful language and hard hits. Teammates were high-fiving and jumping up and down.
According to Missouri rugby coach Matt Moore, rugby has been played at the University of Missouri since the mid-to-late ‘60s. Although many Americans are unfamiliar with how the game is played, it is gaining popularity throughout the United States.
The NCAA does not sanction collegiate rugby; rather USA rugby and club recreation departments govern it.
The Missouri rugby team competes in Division II, where they are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation.
“I think we’re rock solid,” Moore said. “We’ve shown improvement over the season. We’re poised to go to the divisional finals.”
The divisional finals are held on April 5 and 6 in Dallas.
“I feel quite confident,” junior captain Benjamin Harrison said. “We went up to Nebraska earlier this semester and won the Nebraska Invitational by beating Nebraska and Colorado State. We’ve got an incredibly talented team and we should go far this season.”
Rugby is a fast-paced game played by two teams of 15 players.
One might ask why somebody would want to play rugby.
“There’s the whole adrenaline part of it,” Moore said. “It’s just a rush — the competition and the physicality around it.”
Moore added that the camaraderie involved with being on the team is just as important because it gives you a sense of achievement and all of the team members support each other.
“Everybody is really close,” sophomore Sean Minzes said. “They all look out for each other. It’s almost like a brotherhood.”
Rugby provides an opportunity for athletes who are not involved in collegiate sports to continue their athletic endeavors.
“I played high school football and I really missed it,” Harrison said. “My neighbor from the dorms said that he was going to a rugby practice and asked me if I wanted to come.”
Coach Moore played men’s club rugby for 10 years for the Columbia Outlaws, a team that is no longer around.
“I was out of it for a few years,” Moore said. “I just wanted to get back involved and give something back.”
Moore believes that rugby is amateur sports and its finest. He likes the fact that there are no cuts or tryouts.
“It’s the kind of thing that you get out of it what you put into it,” Moore said.
Rugby is a very rough sport, played with no pads and involving a lot of tackling. Injuries occur very frequently.
“Injuries are an important part of the game,” Harrison said. “Usually when a person is injured, play just continues around him until there is a dead ball — such as when the ball goes out of bounds. Last semester I separated my left shoulder. It kept me from playing for about a month, and now I have to be careful about how I go into contact. I wouldn’t say that I’m scared of getting hurt — it’s a part of the game. If you play rugby you will get hurt sooner or later, but it is something that I think about.”
Regardless, the MU rugby team is out there building strong relationships and playing a game they can have fun with. They just hope it can translate into success.