For the Love of the Scrum

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In a state where basketball is lord and savior of sport, a group of IUPUI men and women have found a game where they can “ruck, maul and scrum” their teams to victory in a violently pleasant exercise of good sportsmanship. The game is Rugby.

Rugby’s origin can be traced back to Wawickshire, England in 1823. As Rugby lore goes, a football (soccer) match was taking place between Rugby School and Bigside when William Webb Ellis possibly grew tired of a game where players couldn’t touch the ball with their hands and young William did just that - picked up the ball with his hands and began running down the pitch.

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The men’s Rugby game against Ohio University, Sept. 25, came across as a chaotic blend of soccer and American football where for 80 minutes limbs twist in unnatural ways and bodies collide, fall, and rise again. The objective is to carry the oval shaped Rugby ball down the 100 meter long pitch and across the opponent’s goal line. Bruises, cuts, and plenty of bandaged appendages bear proof that hard contact is met along the way by players who wear little protective gear. The only downtime is a 10-minute halftime and brief moments of rest after a score. 

Yet, it is the intensity of this wrestling match on the run that lures prospective members to the team. “Every player is out here busting their butts. We don’t get anything (compensation) for this. We really want to be out here,” team captain Nate Hession said.

The men’s team is in its seventh season and is currently 3-2 in Mid-American Conference’s fall 15’s season. The team is aiming for a top four finish in the conference and will qualify for the playoffs. Their season goal is to finish first or second in the playoffs which will qualify the team for the national D1aa tournament. 

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Fall Rugby is played with 15 players on the field. Spring games are played with seven players, also known as the 7’s. This is the inaugural season for the women’s Rugby team, but due to a shortage of players the team is playing in the Ohio Valley Conference fall 7’s division. Despite their lack of history, the Lady Jags are 9-1 and looking to improve upon their season that lacks a championship. 

“At the end of the season, which is in a couple of weekends, whoever has the most points has bragging rights,” women’s club president Karsen Rust said.

Funding for the Rugby clubs are almost entirely self-generated through sponsorships and fundraising. The women’s team posted a GoFundMe page with a goal of $3,000 dollars to pay for a coach, equipment, travel fees and insurance. The team raised $1420, but they are still accepting donations and sponsorships. The men’s team donated jerseys for the women at the beginning of the season. As with all club sports, neither team receives financial support from the NCAA. 

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Forty-four NCAA schools sponsor Rugby in all three athletic divisions. Men’s programs compete almost entirely at the club level, while Division I and II women’s teams are NCAA sanctioned and offer Rugby scholarships.

Both teams would prefer to play on campus, but they understand their place in the university’s sports venue hierarchy and play their home games behind VFW Post 155 in Carmel.

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Those who think Rugby is only for the hulking athlete will find the IUPUI clubs accepting of any size or experience level of player. “We accept anybody on the team,” Men’s Rugby club president Spencer Strout said. Each team has an Instagram account where people interested in playing can contact the respective team president.

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