On April 30th, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Council voted to approve rugby as an interscholastic sport. Rugby would be sanctioned as of the 2016-17 school year.
Rugby is a sport similar to American football with similar scoring, but with distinctions of a slightly larger, more elliptical ball and no forward passing. Players can only advance down the field by running the ball or kicking it. Players can still be tackled, but unlike in American Football, they do not wear pads or helmets.
The seeming lack of padding may seem dangerous, but rugby actually has a lower rate of concussions than football. Not to mention, football is a collision sport whereas rugby is a contact sport. Tackles made in rugby must contact the player with the ball below the armpit and the tackling player must attempt to wrap, sort of hug the player with the ball completely. This type of tackling prevents the jarring helmet to helmet collisions of football and limits concussions.
For those who wish to play rugby outside of school, there is a club team based in West Stockbridge. There are 26 high school teams already in Massachusetts, but 23 of them are boys teams. Berkshire United, the local rugby club team, has both a boys team and a girls team.
At Williams, rugby is a club sport, although it has almost the full support of the school. The Williams Club plays rugby union, which is the type of rugby that will be played in the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association). Williams Rugby Football Club coach Jeremiah Madison explained the sport, saying, “It is played the same way as 7’s [A faster and smaller sided version of rugby which will be played in the next Olympics], except with 15 players, 8 forwards (like linemen) and 7 backs (like wide receivers/running backs). The game is played for 80 minutes with 7 substitutions allowed. Once a player is off, they can not go back on. It is a complex game of things called scrums, line-outs, rucks, and mauls.” The WRFC (Williams Rugby Football Club) is a great resource for those who need to watch some play before the sport comes to Berkshire county.
So is the sport coming to Greylock? Probably not, at least not in the next few years. There is no room in the budget for a new sport at present and there is not competition in the county yet. Athletic director Lindsey Von Holtz said, “I don’t see it as a strong possibility, as many of the sports we have are already low in number so being able to field an additional team could possibly decrease the number in other sports. We would also have to have competition. If no one else in Berkshire county is starting a rugby team, we wouldn’t have anyone to participate against. That doesn’t mean in the future as it becomes more popular that it won’t be added, but right now, I do not see it in the next few years.” For now, those looking for rugby will have to turn to club teams and Williams College to satisfy their desire.