Rugby … The Gentlemen’s Sport

If you are interested in athletics but have declared yourself physically bereft of any convenient attributes, then you probably did not know about the UC Irvine Men’s Rugby Club.
While rugby is not one of the frequently mentioned sports in an everyday conversation, it is becoming increasingly popular on campus.
Offered under Campus Recreation, practices are held regularly on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 at the ARC fields.
‘The best part of rugby is that [people of] any size are welcome,’ commented Sonu Bhangoo.
Anybody who is interested in participating is encouraged to attend the team’s practices to ensure a position in Red Robins, which are scrimmages.
Because of the demanding nature of this sport, players are forewarned of the possible dislocated and fractured limbs.
There is a $10 insurance fee required as well as a $100 fee for the season.
UCI’s Rugby Club competes in the Southern California Rugby Football Union under Division II
Some of the familiar opponents include Cal Lutheran, Cal State Fullerton and Occidental.
Rugby, known as ‘the gentlemen’s sport,’ is rumored to have started around 1823.
It is accepted as the father of football and has been called the most challenging contact sport.
Played on the field during two 40-minute halves, rugby games stop only during penalties or injuries.
There are 15 players on each team and there is a five-minute break between the two halves.
UCI takes advantage of the long preseason to prepare the players in order to optimize their experience.
One of the things that the upperclassmen are careful to emphasize is the respect for the referee.
The team selects a team captain who will communicate any of the players’ concerns directly with the referee, in a manner that avoids any unnecessary misunderstandings.
The object of the game is to score in the opponent’s territory, an area designated as the ‘try zone.’
Unlike football, the player must reach this mark, go around it and finally touch the ball to the floor to secure the five possible points.
Two additional points are available on what is known as ‘conversion.’
After the team has scored the ball, the team will come back in to play in a move that is perpendicular to the spot where the point was made.
Players try to score towards the center of the field rather than towards the outside because it is more convenient for the play that follows.
In order to advance toward the try, the players may move the ball laterally or backwards, passing it from one teammate to the next.
It is also possible to kick the ball, but only the players behind the kicker may run forward and attempt to catch it.
This is often a risky move because the team may lose possession of the ball to the opponent.
During the preseason, players also learn about using their different body types to the team’s advantage.
Forwards include positions called hooker, wing forward and scrumhalf.
The backs include positions called flyhalf, inside center and outside center.
On the field, the players use their heads and their shoulders as much as their legs.
Despite the exhausting use of the whole body, however, UCI’s Rugby Club players only gear up with ‘jerseys, shorts, socks and mouth guards,’ said UCI’s current president Peter Yang.
He adds that this year’s team, undefeated in its preseason, ‘has a lot of new players and a lot of new freshmen.’
Several coaches help train the team and work with the players at practices.
Two of the coaches are UCI Men’s Rugby Club alumni who played in 1995, the year UCI captured the league championship trophy.
In addition to working with experienced alumni, students who secretly fear being yelled at and humiliated by coaches during the game do not have to worry.
Because of the chivalrous nature of the sport, coaches often sit away from the field and refrain from making suggestions or mean comments to obviate the players’ mistakes.
This means that the players take command of the field, making their own decisions by employing the material covered at practice.
Joining the UCI Rugby Club is also a good way to meet some of the different talents on campus.
Over the years the sport’s worldwide popularity has made it a headquarters for students visiting from abroad.
Students from as far as England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Japan, Chile and Italy who are studying at UCI through the EAP program have played for the club.
Students from Irvine are undoubtedly populating rugby teams internationally, as well.
The team will travel to games in Southern California as well as head as far as Las Vegas for games.
It is customary that the home team at a rugby game hosts the visiting team afterward by providing food and entertainment.
This gives students an opportunity to network and relax after sharing the adrenaline of the game.
If you are interested in seeing the team in action, drop by the ARC during practice or catch the players on Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. for their games against Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Fullerton. You can reach the club at www.ucirubgy.com.