Rugby’s successful season and the basics of the sport

David Chang, Staff Reporter

You’ve probably seen the intimidating New Zealand ‘all blacks’ haka pregame dance rituals on YouTube, but have you wondered how the game of rugby is actually played?

Recently finishing their fall season with a record of 5-1-1 and second place in their league, the Case Western Reserve University Rugby Football Club team celebrated by petting their team dog, Chef, who loves balls. The team practices every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on either Freiberger or DiSanto field. The team competed in a 15-person on the field per team league against the likes of John Carroll University, Bowling Green State University, Notre Dame College, and Malone University, among others, and are looking to travel to play against Georgetown Law. The team is in the National Small College Rugby Organization and placed second in the Great Lakes conference. Rugby Club President Tim Schwartzkopff mentioned that he even practiced with the Cleveland Crusaders.

“Sometimes after practices I’ve played against other local Cleveland teams in their jersey,” commented Schwartzkopff.

Besides not wearing helmets and shoulder pads, the biggest differences between rugby and football are that passes are only allowed to be backwards, and a try, equivalent to a touchdown, must be completed with a downward motion towards the ground. Compared to American football, Captain Nate Nagvajara comments “There’s always a lot of continuous action … the game keeps on going.”

The ball must be dropped after a player with the ball is tackled, which results in other teammates jumping in to push the tackling players away so that their team retains possession of the ball. There are physical ways of restarting play, called scrum and line out, where players huddle and push against each other to gain possession of the ball or heave the ball to a receiving teammate after the ball goes out of bounds, respectively. 

The team usually runs practice by starting with warmup drills, passing, group conditioning and then splitting up into backs and forwards to practice certain drills. Finance graduate student Ben Austin, one of the coaches of the team, said he runs practices to make sure the team has “consistent scrums and tight alignments so we stay safe when hitting.”

Nagvajara also comments: “We design practice based on addressing what we need based on [performance in previous week’s game] and to fix that, for example, defensive structure.”

When asked what he enjoys about rugby, Nagvajara says the people he meets makes rugby an invaluable experience:  “We all bond over our love of rugby, it’s the brotherhood that comes along with it that makes it fun … The diversity [of people we play against] is great, we meet gay, Jewish, Muslim guys, we also have a great group of guys [here at CWRU].”