Rugby on the Rise
BROCKWAY 1: When you think of American athletics, rugby union is probably not the first sport that comes to mind. But the game actually has old roots in the United States. It’s responsible for the creation of an intercollegiate league in 1876, one that is now known as the Ivy League.
Today, rugby is the fastest growing team-sport in the US with over a million active players. That could be because you don’t need much in order to get started.
It requires a mouthpiece and some cleats. And so the cost comes down and it opens doors.
BROCKWAY 2: Terry Matthews is the dean of students at Hudson Catholic, a high school in Jersey City. Three years ago, he began a rugby program at the school.
I think it’s a great opportunity for kids from the inner city areas to see another vehicle to get them to college and then beyond.
BROCKWAY 3: In just these few years, he’s seen players travel across the US, be invited to foreign countries, like Cuba and Canada, and recruited to college all because of rugby. And sure, football may be the classic high school sport. It may seem crazy…But with all this talk of the dangers of concussions, rugby could actually be a safer alternative.
One of the problems with American football is the way tackling had been taught for years, which was originally, put your head into the kid’s numbers in front of you, which put an incredible strain on the neck and heads snapping back.
BROCKWAY 4: In rugby, head-contact isn’t allowed. Instead, coaches encourage a different target area. As one of Hudson Catholic’s star players, Jharid Morrison, explained…
In rugby, it’s a saying that my coaches use, but they say to go cheek to cheek. Face cheek to…yeah…
BROCKWAY 5: He means butt cheek. And this style of tackle has proven so successful, it’s even changing football. Both NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and The Ohio State University football team have incorporated it into their game.
Morrison was actually a football player first, but he made the switch after seeing the appeal of rugby.
During the games, there’s rarely any time-outs, there are rarely any substitutions, there’s always game play, so you can never get bored of it.
BROCKWAY 6: Rugby used to be popular in the US. But with four major sports already established, the game has faded into the background.
Premiere Rugby is hoping to change that, beginning with this weekend’s game. They’re the top professional rugby league in the UK. Paul Morgan, who works with the organization, explained:
You’ve got a sport like rugby, where would you want to go? It’s America, isn’t it? It’s the biggest market, you’re all sports fans, you like watching on tv, etc. etc.
BROCKWAY 7: And for him and London Irish player, Ciaran Hearn, the US Aviva debut is also an opportunity to recruit some new blood.
It’s just going to help the game over here and hopefully some kids here will turn away from some of the other sports and come into rugby.
BROCKWAY 8: And they’ve found one permanent convert in Hudson Catholic’s Jharid Morrison.
I want to continue playing rugby until I can’t play rugby anymore…
BROCKWAY 9: And he may have the chance. Though he’s just a junior, Morrison’s already attracting interest from college recruiters all because of rugby.
Elizabeth Brockway, Columbia Radio News.