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Rugby Football Here Quietly Gains Fame in World-Wide Arena

Rugby is a sport with which many people living in the Ozarks are unfamiliar, but it is now one of the fastest growing sports worldwide as a result of the increased awareness of fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Along with the fitness required to play, the game also requires individual skills from players of all shapes and sizes, and finally all this needs to be harnessed into a productive team effort.

Springfield Rugby Football Club was formed in 1983 and has been steadily growing with an increasing number of new athletes joining each year. The club was formed by David (Scoop) Thornton together with John Behr who after a meeting in Pappy’s Place on North Main with about eight other potential members decided to proceed with their efforts to bring rugby to Springfield.

The first match was played on March 3, 1983, against Central Missouri State University at Warrensburg resulting in a loss for the Springfield club of 16 to 12. During this time home matches were played at L.A. Wise Park in west Springfield. The first win for the club didn’t come until the next season when Doug Velliquette scored a try to beat SMSU by 4 to 0. Since then Springfield has had considerable success on the field winning the second division championship of the Heart of America Rugby Football Union (HOARFU) several times in the late 1980s before moving to the first division of the HOARFU. The level of competition is increasing all the time and nowhere more so than the HOARFU which has as one of its member clubs the Kansas City Blues which placed fourth in the national club championship in 1993.

In its short history, Springfield Rugby Football Club has a remarkable record for hosting rugby touring clubs from overseas, mainly the British Isles. The Pill Harriers from Newport, Wales, have visited here twice and both times lost to the Springfield club. In 1988 Rumney, Wales, toured this area playing games in Denver and Kansas City before coming to Springfield and winning 22-16. The club hosted a touring team from Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1989 and in the spring of 1992 the club had two touring teams visit here. Strathendrick, Scotland, came in early May and a month later the club again played Rumney and lost on a very wet evening 10-17. The most recent touring team was again from Wales, this time Whitchurch in May 1993 against which an excellent high scoring game occurred with the visitors finally winning 47-36.

The new year 1994 promises to be an exciting but demanding year for the Springfield club with a tour of Wales and Scotland planned for July and August to replay the clubs that have visited the Ozarks. Preparations begin with the start of the spring season with practice on the first Tuesday of February for the first game in March. Included on the schedule for this season are the three best clubs in St. Louis and three of the top four clubs in the HOARFU. The games promise to be very competitive, and spectators are welcome to all home games played at National and Montclair near Mercy Villa.

This season also will include the start of the first rugby team made up of high school age students in Springfield. The athletes have been learning the game throughout the winter and are now ready to take on the competition. Anyone wanting to join this new youth venture or want to become part of Springfield Rugby Football Club will be made most welcome.



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