No pads necessary: Rugby tough

(Photo by Taylor Alderman | The Collegian) Members of the K-State Rugby team does throwing drills during rugby practice at Memorial Stadium on Tuesday evening, Sept. 16, 2014.

The assumption might be that rugby resembles American football, but the K-State men’s rugby team wants to dispute that idea.

“Take away the pads, you can’t pass the ball forward, you can only pass the ball backwards,” Todd Vielhauer, senior in marketing and member of the team, said. “It’s definitely something different, but it’s a blast.”

For those who don’t know, rugby is played with 15 player-teams on a field that is 157-by-77 yards. The goal of the game is to place the ball in the goal area. Doing so results in five points and leads to a 2-point conversion kick. Games are divided into 40-minute halves.

Team member Garrett Williams, senior in education, described rugby like the last play of the game and the team has to score on the kickoff.

One of the most interesting plays in rugby is the scrum. A scrum occurs after a penalty and consists of eight members from both teams on hands in knees interlocked, fighting over the ball.

“A bunch of big, angry men pushing each other around,” Vielhauer said of the style of play. “Awesomeness.”

It’s the physical and intense nature of the game that keeps athletes and fans coming back for more.

“People who have never seen rugby and come out to watch, I’ve never met a single person who said they didn’t enjoy it and didn’t want to come back and watch another one,” team member Christopher Dimarco, junior in management, said. “They always like to come watch.”

Even though there are no pads used in rugby, Dimarco said he believes that the game is a lot safer than football.

“You always see the defense and you can always expect when to get hit,” Dimarco said. “You’re not getting blindsided from a linebacker when you’re always seeing the guy coming up on you defending.”

The team has started off strong this season with a win over Missouri, who went to rugby nationals last year.

“That was huge,” Vielhauer said. “Last year we lost to Missouri, they beat us pretty good. (This year) we played a really physical game. It came down to the last couple seconds, we were down one and we were able to get a kick and win it by a point or two. It was a big win for us.”

The early success of the team can be attributed to their togetherness and camaraderie. However, chemistry like this isn’t something that can be built overnight.

“We got a really good team out this year,” Dimarco said. “I’ve played here for four years and this is definitely the best team we’ve ever had here. It’s been built over the past few years. Overall, this is definitely the most chemistry we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

This year, the team has big aspirations. With that win over Missouri, they know they have the ability to reach those goals.

“Make it to nationals,” Williams said of his team’s hopes. “We have to beat out everyone in our conference, which we’ve started off doing beating Missouri. That was a big win. They went to nationals last year and won our division last year. So basically if we win out the semester, we’re golden.”

Even though not everyone on the team has played rugby for their entire lives, they all share the same love for the game.

“A lot of guys has been here for a couple years and everyone is really determined,” Vielhauer said. “Every day at practice there’s competition. Competition is what makes a team good, it’s going to be a good year if we keep practicing the way we are.”