Rugby: The Few, The Proud, The Insane For those that seek adventure and competition

The sport of rugby is relatively unknown to the common sports fan in the United States. It is a physical, fast-paced game that has similar concepts as football. Rugby, however, is played without pads, which makes the game much more intense. If you are willing to give your all on the pitch to play rugby, some might consider you a little bit insane.

Rugby is known more famously across the world. Countries like New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have made it one of their top sports and are thriving in it. The sport was most recently brought back to the Summer Olympics in 2016.

In the United States, rugby is growing now more than ever before. In order for participation to grow in America, advocates are putting their focus on youth programs. USA Rugby now has 50,000 registered youth athletes in addition to many more in the 5-12 age bracket who aren't registered. The game is now played by 35,000 high school athletes in the U.S., 10 times more than a decade ago.

Now, you can play or watch rugby right in your area. Tropical Rugby, an organization made up of an international group of dedicated people focused on the global growth and development of the sport of rugby, most recently hosted a rugby sevens tournament in Orlando, Florida at the Omni Orlando Championsgate Resort over the Easter weekend.

The showcase event of Tropical Rugby is the annual International Youth Sevens tournament -- the TROPICAL 7s. This event invites the best youth rugby 7s teams from around the globe to compete in one of the top youth tournaments in the world for Olympic rugby. It also offers the opportunity for families to experience the wonders of central Florida’s world-class attractions as one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Both, girls and boys teams at the youth and collegiate level participated in the tournament. Teams came from all over the world to compete. England, Canada and Mexico were all represented by teams at different levels of play. The majority of the participating teams were from the state of Florida including the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida International University at the collegiate level.

In this tournament, teams play with seven players on the field opposed to the traditional 15. As an open field game, it is a more athletic, simpler to understand and less physical format of the game. It is also incredibly exciting to both play and watch.

Similar to American football, teams attempt to maintain possession of the ball to score in their own end zone. Rugby, however, requires that the ball be literally "touched down" for the score to count. A touchdown in football equals a try in rugby. After a try is scored, a player from the team then has the chance to score more points by drop kicking the ball through the uprights of the goal post.

There are not as many technical positions in rugby as there are in football, such as a quarterback, a lineman or a kicker. Everyone plays both offense and defense. When a team has possession of the ball, they will run toward their end zone and pass the ball backwards to their teammates when they are stopped by the defense.

There are few breaks in the game. Play does not stop when someone is tackled, so the game is constantly in motion. When the ball is loose on the ground, the teams will huddle against each other in a "scrum," which causes them to hold in one place at a stalemate. Then, the ball is placed in the middle and the teams try to push the ball out of the circle behind their own team.

In a sevens tournament, each half lasts just seven minutes with a one minute halftime. When 15 players compete, the game time is doubled. With so little stoppage time, the game can be exhausting.

Teams that are well conditioned and quicker than their opponents can easily run the score up against anyone. The fastest player on the field, gives his team a great advantage. Having a good defense may not be enough to overtake a dynamic team with better skill.

As you have probably thought, rugby can be a dangerous game due to the physicality of it. Despite not wearing as much padding as football players, rugby has been found to be a safer sport. The game is safer because tackling techniques are different. Rugby players are taught to lead with their shoulders, not their heads, in contact. The first couple of years in youth rugby are devoted to teaching safe techniques.

Rugby may be safer than football, but that does not mean it is entirely safe. Anyone can get injured when they are being tackled by a person that is the same size as them or bigger. Paramedics and ambulances are always on standby at these tournaments to ensure the proper safety after an injury.

Like all team sports, rugby allows for young athletes to learn about discipline, what it means to play for one another and a sense of sportsmanship. It is a sport that is popular for both men and women to play, opposed to football which is primarily a men's sport.

Rugby is the fastest growing sport internationally and the United States is a part of that movement. The Tropical Rugby organization is working to make rugby available for all ages in the state of Florida. Florida is a highly appealing destination to play rugby – pristine pitches, a warm climate and close proximity to local attractions. I can't think of a better place to get involved and play rugby.

Created By
Kayla Hudson
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Photos taken April 15, 2017 by Kayla Hudson.

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