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Baylor rugby squads prepare for new season of rough, tough competition

Sept. 18, 1996

Jeff Andreson/ The Lariat

Rugby players work hard Tuesday to get ready for upcoming challenges and tough competitors. The players practice from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

By Michelle Ward

Lariat Sports Staff

For the last few years, the men and women of Baylor have been playing the club sport rugby. Originating in England, rugby has been a club sport for the Baylor men since 1993.

The men who have yet to play this season are still holding open try-outs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They currently have seven players on their roster, but they plan to eventually have approximately 40 players.

Matches for the men will start toward the end of the month. The Bears' toughest competition will come from the members of the Texas Rugby Union, an organization Baylor is a member of. The union consists of various universities including Rice and Sam Houston State, Baylor's toughest opponents.

'[Rugby at] Rice is a varsity sport, which gives them funding to pay for coaches,' said Mike Carroll, a Leona Valley, Calif. junior. Sam Houston State's team is comprised of a 'rough and ragged group,' Carroll added.

The women's rugby team has existed for the last five years. The women have 18 members on their team and practice four days a week. The squad has been concentrating on conditioning and skills in the early season, said Molly White, a Morrison, Col. sophomore.

The women's competition comes from the Austin women's team.

'They have a lot of experience, and they play really well together,' White said.

The rugby players of Baylor are among several million men and women who play the sport in more than 100 nations.

Rugby came into existence through a young man's frustration at his school's soccer performance. In disgust, William Webb Ellis picked up the soccer ball and ran the length of the field, threw the ball in the goal and went home.

A new sport was created on that day in 1823 on the field of the Rugby school.

A mixture between American football and soccer, rugby is a contact sport played on a football-sized field. A rugby team consists of 15 players ­ 8 forwards and 7 backs. The forwards are the blockers, usually the bigger players on the team. The backs are the quicker players who move the ball down field.

The oval-shaped ball can progress down field by participants carrying, passing, or kicking it. Although players can kick the ball in a forward motion, they can only pass it behind them.

A good rugby strategy entails having the backs behind the carrier, allowing him or her to pass off when the opponent attacks. However, if the carrier is unable to pass the ball before he or she is tackled, the carrier must release the ball when he or she hits the ground.

Although rugby is a contact sport, players don't wear any type of protective covering. These players use a different method of tackling in rugby than football. Football players tackle each other straight-on; however, in rugby, players use more of a wrestling style tackle.

'Rugby never developed with pads,' Carroll said. 'When Americans took the game over, they added a smaller ball and pads.'

Once the ball is on the ground, the previous offensive team should then make a front wall with its forwards, not allowing the defensive squad a chance at the ball. With a wall in place, or a 'rock', a back ideally should pick up the ball and begin carrying it toward the try zone.

Reaching the try zone is the primary goal for rubgy players. Once a player has reached the zone, he or she must place the ball on the ground. This entitles the scoring team to five points, and the chance to try a conversion play worth three points.

In contrast to football, the conversion play isn't attempted at the 20-yard-line. In rugby, wherever a team scores from must be the point where they attempt the conversion play

'It' s a lot more difficult than an extra point,' said White. 'You have to get an angle on the ball.'

Rugby seasons for both the men and women will begin later this month.

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