Rick Morgan, Dana Point
I very much enjoyed learning two weeks ago that rugby has arrived at Dana Hills High School. I have no doubt the inclusion of rugby in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is responsible, to a great extent, for the increased interest in this wonderful sport. The format for Rio will be seven-a-side teams—a standard rugby team is 15 players—providing for a very fast game.
I encourage the efforts of Drew Falk and Gabe Wahl and their coaches in building a solid rugby club at Dana Hills. However, I had to chuckle a bit when I read the quote regarding Dana Hills being “at the forefront of the rugby movement in Southern California” and that “the rugby boom is on the rise.”
While this may be true at the high school level—and with all due respect to the excitement and passion of Mr. Falk and Mr. Wahl—a bit of history is needed at this point.
Rugby has been played in the U.S. consistently since the 1950s, with at least 1,000 colleges and universities fielding a team. By most accounts, it is the most popular club sport in the country and among the 10 most popular sports worldwide.
Top international teams have played the Rugby World Cup every four years since 1987. The Southern California Rugby Football Union began in 1937 in Los Angeles. The driving force for the SCRFU, and first president, was Boris Karloff, of Frankenstein horror fame.
As far as Olympic history is concerned, let the record show that the U.S. is the defending champion, having won gold at the 1920 Antwerp Games and again at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
Rugby has not been an Olympic sport since Paris, primarily due to extraordinarily bad blood between the U.S. and French teams and its fans. Riots in the stands and the escorting of U.S. gold medalists off the field under protection from the French team and police fairly assured that rugby would not be seen again—until 2016.
Finally, two interesting facts about rugby: One, the referee is supreme on the pitch (field), being traditionally addressed as “Sir.” And two, generally speaking, there are fewer major injuries in rugby than in American football.
Rugby is often characterized in news reports as being ultra-violent, but the truth is that while there can be some fearsome injuries, there are no helmets or bulky pads in rugby and thus tackling is far cleaner with players being taught to play the ball and not the man.