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DU Rugby Club leads a rough and tumble life

What’s kept the DU Rugby Club tradition going for the past 40 years? “The camaraderie you have with your mates is unmatched in any other sport, like being able to beat the living tar out of another team for 80 minutes and then partying with them afterwards like nothing ever happened,” says center Brian Jones, a junior marketing major. “I’ve loved it ever since I first stepped on the field.”

The 20-member DU rugby team is made up of both experienced players and novices. One of 24 club sports at DU, the team plays in the Division II Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union (ERRFU). “This is probably the most talented group I’ve had as a team,” says J.R. Lapierre, who started coaching the DU team four years ago after winning a 1999 national championship with the Super League Denver Barbarians and then retiring from competitive rugby. DU’s Stu Halsall, director of recreation and Ritchie Center scheduling, is the team’s assistant coach.

Size is not necessarily an advantage in rugby, though speed and good conditioning are. Rugby is played on running time, and plays quickly change direction. “This is the most exhausting sport I have ever played. You definitely have to be in good shape,” says first-year back Bobby Deline.

The team practices twice a week, and once a week, DU trainer Krys Woods volunteers to help with strength training, flexibility, speed and agility. “These guys come to play, not hang out on the sidelines,” she says.

Rugby is growing in popularity at youth and high school levels and is the fastest growing sport for collegiate women. Although DU doesn’t currently have a women’s rugby team, the University has fielded one in the past.

In rugby, there are 15 players on each side. All play offense and defense, can carry the ball, can be tackled while doing so and can score. “It’s a fast and physical game,” Lapierre says.

“What I really love about it is that anyone can play. Anyone can score and be a star,” adds first-year fullback Michael Foland. “I have never found anything that gives the same adrenaline rush for so long.”

Formed after an infraction, the “scrum” is a huddle comprised of the forwards of both teams, arms locked over shoulders, fighting to move the ball with their feet to a teammate eligible to pick it up and initiate play. It is a mass of legs and opposing wills. “A scrum is eight people tied in a really tight knot using all their strength to push in a common direction,” explains first-year business major Adam Gregory, who plays “hooker.” His job is to hook his foot around the ball and move it toward the rest of the scrum. “All eight people depend on each person individually not to let up, because if one person isn’t doing everything they can, the scrum won’t go anywhere.”

The ERRFU plays league matches in the fall and playoff games in the spring. The DU club finished the 2003 season 2-2, just missing a playoff berth. Spring will bring non-league matches and training with the Denver Barbarians.

Josh Manning, a sophomore international studies major who plays wing, speaks for the team when he says, “Win or lose, we play for each other, and that’s what it’s all about.”


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