Coming into college, most of us know very little about the sport of rugby. Coming out of college, most of us still know little about the sport of rugby.
However, some students at UR, about 50 to 60 of them, in fact, have taken it upon themselves to find out a little more about this sport by participating in men’s or women’s club rugby.
‘Rugby is a sport for everyone, no matter their height, weight, strength, speed, etc., because there is a position for everyone on a rugby team,” president of the women’s rugby team and sophomore Jamie Dougherty said about the mix of players. ‘I think that’s one of the coolest things about rugby, and one of the most encouraging.”
This traditionally European activity is baffling to watch, as the rules of play seem convoluted and confusing. The gist of it is that there are 15 players per team on the field, called a ‘pitch,” at a time. There are nine ‘forwards” and six ‘backs,” but each forward or back has his or her own unique responsibilities.
These players may run, kick or pass the ball, all while attempting to score a ‘try,” which is essentially rugby’s version of a touchdown where the ball must touch the ground, worth five points. However, there are some catches. First of all, the ball cannot be passed forward. Second of all, any time you have the ball, you can be tackled. This is only the beginning, as there are many more rules, strategies and opportunities to score in the game.
The lack of experience with these complicated rules is one of the biggest challenges for the club rugby teams only five of the players on the men’s team had played before, and all of the players on the women’s team were new to the sport. But this lack of experience gives the teams something that other sports might miss out on camaraderie. The players bond together while learning the sport and help each other to improve and grow. This camaraderie is evidenced by the nicknames of the players. A rugby tradition, these names are typically quite unusual, and it has been said that some teammates don’t even know each other’s real names.
One negative result of the somewhat haphazard flow of play is the high number of injuries. Currently on the men’s team, the injuries include a couple of broken fingers, a sprained neck and a few concussions. For men’s rugby president and junior Adam Witzel, however, the physicality is something that drew him to the sport.
‘It’s an extremely physical sport, and the one-on-one run-through and play releases something in you,” he said.
The members of the club aren’t completely on their own, though. Both teams have community members who serve as coaches. The men’s coach, Michael Bradley, has been coaching rugby at UR for 18 years. The women’s team, which was only formed in 2004 and didn’t really develop until last year, is coached by Donielle Peck, who is a member of a local women’s rugby team.
The men’s team practices four times a week on a field near Southside Living Center or at Genesee Valley Park, and the women’s team practices two to three times a week at these same places. Since this is a club sport, the teams must find their own leagues to join. The men are currently in a league with six other schools from the area, and they have a seven-week season with one bye week. Due to its youth, the women’s team is not yet in a league and currently scrimmages with whomever will play them.
The teams are always open to new members, too. In fact, the women’s team will be having an informal practice and pick-up game this Saturday those interested are to meet outside Goergen Athletic Center at 1 p.m.
For those who are interested in watching the oddity that is rugby, spectators are welcome at all games. The women’s team has a home game on Oct. 11 at Southside, and the men’s team will be playing Hobart College on Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. at Southside for Meliora Weekend.
Philbrick is a member of
the class of 2009.

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