There is something about the struggle which humanity seems to appreciate. A certain nobility permeates our mental and physical proving grounds—those places where we lay it on the line to discover our capabilities. Virtues such as courage, heart and determination are addressed. Hours of training and preparation come down to a single moment, where victory or defeat is decided. We discover who we are. We realize our true character.
The Hilton Head Rugby Football Club (HHIRFC) has fielded men of character since 1974. For those who are unfamiliar with the sport of rugby, an initial look at the game might resemble nothing more than large men in short shorts knocking the stuffing out of one another and occasionally shouting at each other in foreign accents for no reason. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rugby is played with 15 men to a side on the field—or pitch. Starters are numbered one through 15, with each number denoting position and responsibility. The larger players (the forwards) are usually numbered one through eight, and the speedier, wiry individuals (the backs) round out the roster. The ball, which is a bit bigger and fatter than a regulation size football, can be advanced by kicking it forward, passing it backward or running it up the field.
Points are scored when the ball is set down in a controlled manner in what is known as the try zone, or when kicked through the goal posts. The try zones and goal posts exist at opposite ends of the pitch, much like football, and are separated by the 50-meter line (halfway point), the 10-meter line (10 meters from the 50) and 22-meter line. Tries are worth 5 points; point after attempts worth 2; and penalty kicks or drop kicks worth 3.
Play stoppages occur when the ball has gone out of bounds, an infraction has occurred or an injury must be attended to. With little padding, team members play both offense and defense, and a half is 40 minutes long. In summary, rugby players must be proficient in tackling as well as running with the ball, playing for 80 minutes with no pads and no timeouts, on a pitch a bit larger than a football field. Needless to say, the action is non-stop, intense and begins to make football look like child’s play.
Conditioning is certainly a factor. So are coaching, proper training and forming a game plan that will exploit the opposing team’s weaknesses or utilize the home team’s strengths. Having a strong forward pack will employ a lot of scrums after penalty stoppages and rolling mauls—those instances where all the forwards from each team come together and push for ball retention and field placement. Having an experienced and speedy backfield will make use of passing, running and kicking capabilities. Either one is thrilling to watch.
If you enjoy the purity of struggle, whether as a spectator or a participant, you will enjoy rugby. It’s not simply about physical prowess; it is about what people are willing to go through to achieve a goal, and doing it surrounded by a team of likeminded mates who won’t ever let them down. What is nobler than loyalty, courage and displays of determination?
HHIRFC is always looking for another man seeking to test the limits of his character.