Columbia's rugby team looks forward to new season

Friday, September 6, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 7, 2013
The Columbia Rugby Football Club gears up for its first match on Saturday. Captain Shan Schauffler says expectations and intensity for the team are much higher this season.

*CORRECTION: In a story in Friday’s edition, the Columbia Rugby Football Club was misidentified. The Boone County Outlaws merged with the Mid-Mo Black Sheep in August and the new organization is known as the Columbia Rugby Football Club.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Rugby Football Club* flies slightly under the radar as far as Columbia sports teams go. The rugby club doesn't get much recognition, but the players say they don't play for the recognition.

"When you come out here and play, you have 30 instant friends, 30 instant brothers to go out and play with," said Shan Schauffler, vice captain of the team.

The club has a unique team with a variety of ages, backgrounds and rugby experience among their players. Each player has his own reasons for being on the team, and they all started playing rugby in different contexts.

Pablo Oleiro, who is starting his second season on the team, is from Argentina and has played rugby for most of his life. A graduate student studying wildlife at MU, he says the team has helped him find friends in Missouri.

Oleiro found out about the rugby club through a friend's husband and has been playing on the team ever since.

"He invited me to one of the practices, and that's it. That's the beginning," Oleiro said.

For other members on the club, the team has been a much more consistent part of their lives. Drew Morrow has been playing rugby for 16 years and estimates he has played for the club for 10 of those years. Although the team disbanded for a time, he said he couldn't stay away once it returned.

"It's a family sport," Morrow said. "I mean, we're all family with each other and we've got each others' backs. It's not, 'What can I do to make myself look good?' It's, 'What can I do to help the team?'"

Although rugby is traditionally portrayed as a tough, collision sport, both Schauffler and Morrow say they have received fewer injuries playing rugby than they have in other sports.

Morrow played semi-professional football for the Jefferson City Jaguars and started playing rugby in the spring as a way of getting in shape for football season.

Schauffler played as a running back for the Missouri Tigers in college, graduating in December 2002, and started playing rugby because he liked the physicality of the sport.

"I did my master's degree in Australia, and one of my coaches over there put it the best. He said that football was the collision sport and rugby was the impact sport," Schauffler said. "With football you can turn your body because of the pads. With rugby, you have to focus mainly on your form."

The Columbia Rugby Football Club plays in the Heart of America Rugby Football Union against teams from St. Louis, Kansas City and even as far away as Arkansas.

The team plays its first game of the season Saturday at Rock Quarry Park against the St. Louis Crusaders. The match is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

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