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Extremely Athletic Sport Opens Its Arms

Rugby club welcomes players and observers as season gets under way.


By Ann Keyes– September 30, 2004

For the News-Leader


Mission: To promote rugby in a positive light and to perform on the field, i.e. "win games," says club secretary Rhett Smillie. "Rugby is such a great sport, yet few Americans are familiar with it."


About: The Springfield Rugby Club was established in 1983 and currently has 50 members. The club also has a large base of alumni, says Smillie. Affiliated with the United States of America Rugby Football Union, the Western Rugby Territory and Heart of America Rugby Union, the local team plays the majority of their games against midwestern teams, though some matches are held against teams throughout the United States and Europe.


The Springfield Rugby Club has won the Heart of America Division II championship each year from 1999 through 2003.



P.J. Sheridan (center left) looks to pass the ball after being caught by a pack of defenders.

Many local members played football, basketball, soccer, were wrestlers or even chess team members before trying rugby — the transition to the sport is easy, says the club's Web site.

A cross between American football and soccer, there is no stopping during play of rugby unless the ball goes out of bounds, says Smillie. He adds that rugby was derived from soccer, and football was derived from rugby.


The local all-male team encourages anyone to play or watch if a "fast paced, extremely athletic, contact sport" sounds appealing. The team practices each Tuesday and Thursday evening at the "Home Pitch," a field north of James River Expressway and south of Interstate 44 on Farm Road 144.


General club meetings are held once a month; the next will be held at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Springfield Brewing Company, 305 S. Market Avenue.


Past projects: In addition to playing rugby, club members do charity projects. Their most recent was at The Kitchen's restaurant, Maggie's, where members put in new walls and a ceiling, painted and did cabinetry work.

 


Jeff Bosaw of the Springfield Rugby Club pass the ball after getting a lift from his teammates.

Smillie says the team has held matches to benefit local charities in the past, and are "always looking for opportunities to help within the community."


A few weeks ago, members did clean-up work at the Home Pitch. To be respectful of neighbors near the field, members and those attending games are encouraged to drive the speed limit and deposit trash in proper receptacles.

 

Upcoming: Practice for the current season began in August and continues throughout the season; matches began this month. Some games are held at the home field and some are in St. Louis and Nebraska, among other locations.


A "Rucktoberfest" weekend in Memphis is scheduled for Oct. 16-17.


Further ahead: Season play ends in early November, though local players both current and former — in addition to friends and players from all over the country — reminisce during the second weekend of January with an alumni weekend.


Want to join or need to know more? Contact Rhett Smillie at 880-1000 or visit www.springfieldrugby. com for information on both the history of the game and the local club, as well as a schedule of this fall's games.

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