Strength in numbers is often a term used when talking about fights; rugby is no exception.
The men’s rugby team at Keene State College is rather large in size, pulling about 25 to 30 guys consistently. These numbers are large enough for there to be two teams, an A and B team. Junior Joseph Fletcher said, “I think we have a lot of players right now because we don’t have football at this school, and people see rugby as a substitute.” Rugby does draw some similarities to football: they both have a similar shaped ball, both involve running and catching and both involve a lot of contact.
While some of the players are former football players, some just want to have fun. Junior John Bowler said, “It was something I could do with my friends. It’s a very fun activity, it’s very physical, good exercise.” Rugby is not a sport that is offered at many high schools, so many people have never played rugby before playing at KSC. One person who did play in high school is the head coach of KSC’s men’s rugby team, Ely Thayer. “I started playing rugby in high school, in the midwest,” Thayer said.
At the moment, many high schools do not offer rugby to their students. That might be subject to change in the future. Rugby is currently one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and is available for boys and girls of all ages. Rugby is now being played in over 120 countries and by over 5.5 million people worldwide.
With rugby being such a physical sport, it helps a great deal to have a team with a lot of players. With physical sports such as rugby, football, hockey and even lacrosse, players are always at risk to get injured. Having a larger team helps when a player goes down because there are more people who can step in for the injured player. “When you’re able to have a team of roughly 30 players and you can have a full two teams out, it’s a tremendous advantage to both practicing and game time,” Thayer said.
Not only has Thayer played in high school but he has also played for multiple teams. “I played in both high school and college. I still play for the New England Rugby Football Union’s division and play for the local Keene team, the Monadnock rugby football club,” Thayer said.
While Thayer is in his rookie year coaching at KSC, he said he likes what he sees from this team. “They’re good, it’s fun, there’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of good athleticism, a lot of novices to the sport which is fantastic because then we can teach them the right habits,” said Thayer.
The men’s rugby team has been consistently gathering large numbers, and Bowler doesn’t expect that to stop. “It’s a different sport. Not a lot of schools before you come to college offer it and, if you’re the curious type, it’s a lot of fun,” said Bowler.
Austin Smith can be contacted