Taking the Pitch

The Pacific University rugby team practices in the field house in February 2013.

March 1, 2013

Rugby finds enthusiasts at Pacific University.

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The ball cannot be thrown ahead of the team possessing it, only laterally or backwards, Dictus explained, although it can be kicked or carried forward by a player, who is followed by the rest of his team.

A score occurs when a ball carrier touches the ball to the ground behind the goal line — the origination of the term “touchdown,” as American football evolved from rugby.

The ball itself is a little bigger and bit rounder than the American pigskin, and it seems to wobble when thrown in the air.  Each team has 15 people on the field — eight forwards and seven backs — who toss the ball to each other to avoid being tackled. There are a variety of plays, including the notorious “scrum,” which looks like a big shove-and-push drill with arms locked and heads down in a circle.  It is better explained through Wikipedia.

The game is very much fast paced.  Each half is 40 minutes with no time-outs, and halftime is just 10 minutes. One head referee, called a “sir,” and two touch judges, also known as sideline sirs, officiate. The players wear mouthpieces, but no other protective gear.

“In rugby, because you don’t have the padding you’re aware of your vulnerabilities,” said assistant coach Eduardo Garnica, who played both collegiate and semi-professional rugby and rounds out a coaching team that also includes assistant coaches Marc French and Jay Worley.

“Rugby is a contact sport, but football is an impact sport,” Dictus said. “We tackle, but we don’t set up to blast people.”

Plus, Dictus said, is that anyone can score.

 “Everybody on the field has a specific job, just like football. But everyone also gets to touch the ball and everyone gets to play,” he said. “It’s not like football where only a few certain players get to score.  Everyone has access to the glory in rugby.”