North Texas Daily

UNT club rugby team brings British tradition to Denton

UNT club rugby team brings British tradition to Denton

UNT club rugby team brings British tradition to Denton
September 20
00:52 2018

Rugby — or, as it’s called in other parts of the worls, “rugby football” — does not have the same popularity as football, hockey, basketball and baseball in the U.S. In places like New Zealand and South Africa, rugby is very close or at the top of the sports popularity chain. 

While many casual sports fans may understand rugby in its name, how the game is played and the technical aspect is something some Americans may not be well-versed in. 

Rugby traces its history back to the 19th century when the Rugby Football Union was founded in England. Since 1871, rugby has spread far beyond England, with teams across all six continents.

Rugby can be considered a mix of two more popular sports.

“It’s kind of a cross between football and soccer,” sophomore rugby player Shane Castillo said. “The objective is to score in what we call in football the ‘end zone,’ but in rugby, we call it the ‘try zone.’ Pretty much like all sports, whoever scores the most points wins.”

Despite the physically demanding stigma rugby carries with it, those who play it know it is just as much a mental challenge as a physical one.

“Some would say rugby is like chess because there [are] so many places players have to be and so many moves you have to make beforehand, and it’s really more of a mental game than it is physical,” Castillo said.

Rugby is a contact sport, like football and hockey. The main difference, however, is that in football and hockey one will wear pads and protective gear. But in rugby, protective gear is not worn. Because of this, rugby players have to maintain self-control and body control in order to prevent injury.

“It’s pretty physical for the first 10 to 15 minutes,” sophomore rugby player Terance Hargest said. “You go straight into it hard-hitting, but then after a while you [become more in] control. You can’t really come in reckless like football since it’s not a collision sport. It’s more of a contact sport where everything has to be under control.”

While the sport of rugby is physically compared to football, Hargest noted another difference between the two sports.

“It’s just as physical, except we’re not coming in as reckless like most football players because we do not have any protective gear,” Hargest said. “We have to be under more control and be more conservative when we are tackling.”

A unique aspect of rugby is that it can be played in two different ways: in Rugby 7s and 15s. Traditional American sports require a constant number of players on the field, and if that number does change, it is considered a  penalty.

“In 15s, there will be 15 players from each team, so 30 people on the field,” junior Ryan Niesman said. “For 7s, there will be seven people on the field for each team.”

While professional football and hockey games last a total of 60 minutes, rugby games extend past their physical counterparts to almost the length of a soccer match. Rugby games last 80 minutes total, with two 40 minute halves.

The level of competition has recently risen higher this season than it had been in previous years. UNT’s rugby team plays in the Red River Conference, a conference that consists of larger schools with larger budgets.

“We play teams like [Oklahoma University], [the University of Arkansas] and [Louisiana State University],” Castillo said. “We got moved into a Division I conference, so the competition is probably the toughest that UNT rugby has ever seen, but it is manageable.”

Even though rugby differs from more popular sports, one thing that doesn’t change is the camaraderie.

“It’s really a family,” Niesman said. “There’s a lot of guys that come from a lot of different places and we just really work well together and come together really well.”

Featured Image: Lunging after the ball, Zack Bell almost reaches teammate Parker Tuck. Matthew Flores 

About Author

Jacob Solomon

Jacob Solomon

Business student at the University of North Texas and sports writer at the North Texas Daily.

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