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Scrumming With the Stars

The best players in rugby await a Springfield club traveling overseas.

Francis Skalicky / News-Leader July 1994

Rugby is on the fringe of the Ozarks’ sports scene.

However, a group of local players are about to move into the sport’s mainstream.

When 21 players from the Springfield Rugby Club leave today for Scotland and Wales, it will be the beginning of an ll day journey to lands where rugby rules.

“Their knowledge of the sport is just so much better than ours,” said Kevin LaSalle of Republic, a player for the Springfield club. “They’ve been playing it since they were young, so they don't have to think as much about what they’re doing. It’s more instinctive.”

The Springfield club will spend three days in Glasgow, Scotland; three in Cardiff, Wales; and five in Newport, Wales. It will play one match at each site.

The trip is a type of annual foreign exchange that goes on between Springfield and foreign clubs.”

Some years, clubs from other countries come here to play. Other years, Springfieldians take their rugby on the road. The last time the Springfield club went abroad was 1987.

“Rugby is like an international fraternity,” said John Moore, another member of the club.

“The game is played the same all over the world.”

Well, not quite the same.

The rules are identical as players travel from one country to the next, but the skills aren’t.

“The levels of the game are so much greater over there,” said Springfield player Clint Moore. “They’re so much better.”

And the clubs are so much bigger. Whereas total membership of the Springfield club numbers in the mid~30s, its British counterparts may have as many as 100 members. Each club usually fields several teams.

“Their top level team could beat the crap out of us,” chuckled Moore. “I hope we play their social clubs. I surely don’t want to play their A or B teams.”

Stacey Thornton of Springfield agreed.

“If they put their first side (the rugby term for team) against us, they’ll cream us” he said. “If they want to put a social side against us, we’ll probably play them pretty competitively.”

Part of the expenses for the trip will be paid out of the players’ pockets. Fund-raisers held earlier in the year also will help cover the costs.

However, expenses won’t be as high for this trip because the hosts are helping to cover many of the costs. The Springfield players will be staying in the homes of their hosts, who also will be taking care of many of their other expenses.

“We won’t hardly spend any money at all,” Moore said.

That’s because the social off-the field aspect of rugby is as important as the competitive part.

“Whenever you go on one of these kind of trips, here’s what’s going to happen,” Thornton said. “You’re going to meet two or three guys who you really hit it off with. In rugby, you’re friends for life.”

“You become the best of friends,” Moore said. “What's great about rugby is on the field, you can fight and hate each other, but as soon as the whistle blows, we’re the best of friends.”



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