Brigham Young University-Idaho welcomes rugby to intramural sports this spring.
For many international students at BYU-I, rugby is almost like a religion. It is home. It is their comfort. It is their happy place.
“When we’re born, instead of getting a teddy bear, we’re given a rugby ball,” said Dallyn McLean, a sophomore from South Africa studying Exercise Physiology.
McLean said he cannot recall a day that goes by where he has not played rugby; it is a 24/7 game for him.
In Rexburg, it is hard to find rugby around town.
There are basketball hoops at every park, and baseball diamonds almost everywhere, but finding a group of people who know how to play rugby is rare.
Rugby is a nonstop action sport. The players know that if students come out and watch the games, they will get hooked on the sport.
“The more and more we get the word out, the more and more people will come see it, the more they’ll fall in love with it,” said Drew Chazen, a Sophmore from South Africa studying accounting.
The legend of rugby is that the an English man, William Webb Ellis, picked up a soccer ball during a soccer (or football) game in 1823 and ran with it, according to rugbyfootballhistory.com. And so rugby began.
“My earliest memories I have are me watching a rugby game with my dad,” Chazen said.
He said the recognition the sport gets here is far less than what it recieves in South Africa.
“You miss having the big setup you have back home, and the recognition from back home,” Chazen said.
McLean said the BYU-I sports directors went to BYU for the big rugby tournament. They said, “Let’s do it,” and brought it back to Rexburg.
Word spread across campus and five competitive rugby teams were formed at BYU-I.
There are two different options of rugby, teams of seven or teams of 15. Sevens is a faster and quicker version. However, 15s is the main version, and right now, BYU-I is only offering sevens.
“It’s pretty much like a test trial right now,” said Lilo Vaai, a sophomore from Samoa studying exercise physiology.
Vaai said he wants to get the word out to expand the program so there can eventually be a 15s team and a big fan base.
Vaai added there are some differences with the competitive team here that you might not normally see on the rugby field.
At BYU-I, when players get tired, they can substitute out. Normally in rugby, they have to get hit to be taken out.
Additionally, anyone can play rugby, whether they have prior experience or not, it does not matter.
“Rugby is often portrayed as a big man’s sport, but that is not the case at all,” Chazen said. “Players come in all different shapes and sizes.”
Chazen said they had players on their team who have never played and have picked up the game super fast.
“It’s also not as dangerous as it looks,” McLean said.
McLean also added that, in football, they wear padding and helmets so they can tackle people as hard as they can want. In rugby, they do not have any of that. There is technique on how to tackle to prevent injury.
Chazen explained for those who have never played rugby, they teach fundamental techniques every single practice. For example, they teach how to properly tackle to limit injuries.
“It’s actually a lot safer than most people think,” McLean said. “It’s a hard game, but people aren’t getting injured all the time.”
Chazen said he wants to bring his culture of rugby into Rexburg.
“The culture back home (in South Africa) is that everyone is welcome,” Chazen said. “Anyone can come play. We are hoping that the spirit of rugby comes to Rexburg.”
Some students worry about how to juggle playing sports while keeping up with their classes. But it is just three days out of your week for a couple of hours.
“Playing sports while taking classes can be difficult, but it makes it a lot easier when you enjoy what you’re doing,” Chazen said. “I just count it as part of my exercise. It’s fun. You just make time for it.”
Rugby is currently only offered for men, but coaches are hopeful that word will spread and a women’s team will form soon, so that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the sport.