Rugby provides sport alternative

Fumi Nakamura/The News Rugby player Travis Nelson competes against alumni last season.
Fumi Nakamura/The News Rugby player Travis Nelson competes against alumni last season.

Fumi Nakamura/The News
Rugby player Travis Nelson competes against alumni last season.

The Murray State Rugby Football Club provides an alternative for athletes to satisfy their need for competition in place of college athletics.

Rugby football, referred to simply as rugby is a sport with a long history. It was allegedly invented in 1823 by Englishman William Webb Ellis who found the rules of soccer too restricting. Legend has it Ellis picked up the ball during a soccer match and ran with it, forcing the opposing team to tackle him.

Though this story is most likely fictitious, it is widely accepted, as the International Rugby Board, as named the World Cup trophy the William Webb Ellis Cup.

It took 51 years for rugby to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

American ingenuity quickly took hold, and rugby gave birth to American football. Rugby is still played by many in the U.S. and Murray State’s Rugby Football Club continues that tradition by providing students on campus with an alternative form of football or soccer.

Rugby and American football are known to many as the most dangerous and physically demanding sports.

For Connor Dec, junior from Chicago, these qualities are what attracted him to rugby. Dec came from a high school sports career that included American football and wrestling. Though his focus in college became the pursuit of his exercise science degree, he needed to find a way to fulfill his competitive spirit.

“I wanted to compete in something when I came to Murray,” Dec said. “My preference was obviously a contact sport and rugby fit perfectly. I knew a few guys who played and I asked if they were still taking people for the team. Turns out they are always looking to get more people involved.”

The team hosts an alumni match once a year, where alumni can face off against the current crop of players. This match attracts alumni who attended Murray State as far back as the 1970s. 

The Rugby Football Club has found alternative ways to make their presence known on campus.

Its most coveted tradition is the rugby dress match, where another Kentucky team is invited  to Murray to raise money and play a full contact rugby match of 80 minutes in dresses without pads or helmets.

Caleb Nelson, senior from Niceville, Fla., said he was lucky enough to attend a high school that had its own established rugby club. He said rugby has had a positive influence on his life, whether it be physical fitness or life lessons.

“In a very simplistic way, it has taught me to pick myself up after every fall,” Nelson said. “It helped me realize you can always pick yourself up and bounce back. More importantly, it taught me a great deal about friendship. It taught me the opposing team isn’t always the enemy. One of my favorite things about rugby is the camaraderie between teams.”

Nelson said he became attached to the sport in high school and that if students are willing to get past the stereotype of rugby being an overly dangerous sport, the same will happen to them.

“I would argue that rugby is actually the safer contact sport you can play,” Nelson said. “The rules of rugby prevent head on head collisions and there are serious penalties for dangerous tackles and unsafe play. We don’t wear pads and there is danger, but the referees are there to make sure everyone plays it safe. Rugby is challenging, not crazy.”

Story by Alex McLaughlin, Staff writer