Rugby finds a home at Missouri

Many students play rugby to fill the athletic void created after high school.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:28 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Megan Laffoon has played sports all of her life, but they’ve always been traditional American sports.

In high school, she played basketball, softball, volleyball and competed in track in the small town of Braymer. Later, in Laffoon’s junior year at MU, she heard about

Missouri’s women’s rugby club team.

“I heard about it from a friend that I had a class with,” Laffoon said. “I’m going to be a police officer, and I need to stay in shape, so I started playing. Rugby is a game that once you start playing, you fall in love with it and never want to quit.”

Laffoon became the team president and captain this semester. The team has been actively pursuing new members recently, posting flyers across the MU campus.

“Lots of the girls on the team were soccer and softball players in high school,” Laffoon said, “and they hear about rugby and that’s what they want to do.

“No experience is needed. We’ll teach you how to play from the beginning. We don’t expect you to know what rugby is.”

Laffoon acknowledges that though they want to win games, relationships are the most important part of the game.

“We teach the sport, and you learn how to play rugby,” Laffoon said. “It’s competitive, but we are out to have fun. We are all rugby players, but we are all friends, too. Rugby is a very social sport.”

The women’s rugby team plays different colleges from around the region, including Truman, Washington University, Kansas, Southern Illinois and Arkansas. After each game, the host team takes their opponents out for a party.

“We may be beating the crap out of each other on the field, but afterwards it is very different,” Laffoon said. “We talk about rugby, school or whatever.

You go out there, play your heart out and then just hang out afterwards.”

The rugby team is in a group, called a union, with Truman and Washington University. The winner of the union moves on to play in the West tournament. The top 16 teams advance and play until there are eight remaining. The final eight play and then are ranked nationally by USA Rugby.

Women’s rugby is a club team and is funded through SOAC, the Student Organization Allocation Committee. The team receives funds through student fees that are set aside for organizations.

Women’s rugby also has fund-raisers, and its most popular one is an interactive showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show around Halloween at Waters Auditorium on the MU campus.

Another annual tradition of the team is prom rugby, where the participants play a game with prom dresses over their clothes.

“It’s really fun because it’s such a laid-back game,” Laffoon said. “We take pictures beforehand, and it’s funny because a lot of times dresses will get ripped off.”

The team is coached by volunteer Jennifer Kimmel, a biochemistry professor at MU. She plays for the Kansas City Jazz, a nationally ranked club team.

Kimmel led the team to a 3-3-1 record in the fall season. The spring season started Feb. 26, with a 12-10 loss to Southern Illinois.

The scoring system in rugby is comparable to American football. A try, worth five points and similar to a touchdown, is when a player crosses the goal line and touches the ball to the ground. A conversion follows where the player attempts to kick the ball through the uprights, worth another two points. It is also possible to drop kick the ball through the uprights during continuous play for three points, but it is rare in women’s rugby.

The rugby team will attempt to even its spring record at noon on Saturday against Kansas in Kansas City.

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