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“So much more than a sport”



Rugby Club President, Andrew Preising, talks to the Rover about “the ancestor of football”

“After setting foot on the field for the first time my freshman year, I had no idea what I was going to be a part of. It’s awesome. Rugby is so much more than a sport, so much more than what happens on the field,” said senior Andrew Preising, president of the Notre Dame Rugby Club.

“I think the root of it is respect for the game,” he continued to tell the Rover. “It takes a certain toughness and certain courage to play, and I think it’s respected amongst players.”

Rugby began to take shape as a sport in 19th-century Europe. One of the first rugby matches was played in Scotland in 1857, Edinburgh University versus Edinburgh Academicals. Today in America, even amidst a sports world often dominated by American football, rugby seems to be growing steadily in popularity and respect.

Preising explained that rugby is a dynamic sport because it contains some of the better elements of more popular sports.

“That’s why I love the game,” he said, “because it’s really cerebral in the sense that it’s like soccer mixed with football because it’s fluid play, but it requires the coordination of football and the timeliness of soccer, where you can’t call timeout and then call a play. You actually need to call plays on the fly and have everyone in the right place.”

There are two forms of rugby, 15s rugby and sevens rugby. As their names suggest, 15s rugby is played with 15 players from each team on the field at once, and sevens is played with only seven players from each team.

There are three ways to score: a try with a conversion attempt, a penalty goal, and a drop-goal. The best way to score is called a try, worth five points.

“Everyone understands what a try is, which is basically a touchdown,” Preising explained. “So, it means you run it in to the other team’s try-zone, and you need to touch the ball down. That’s a key difference between rugby and football.”

The defense can get crafty, however, and work to prevent or save a try.

“If the other team tackles you and holds you up and prevents you from touching the ball down, then it’s a scrum on their five meter line. So, they basically can save tries,” he added.

After every try comes an opportunity for two additional points, which is called a conversion. The team attempting to convert must kick the ball through the uprights from a point on a straight line drawn from the location of the try.

The other common way to score is called a penalty goal.

“You can elect to kick for points at any time you have a penalty. With that free kick you basically set up your tee and kick it like it’s a conversion, and that would be three points if you make it through the uprights,” Preising said.

The final way to score is called a drop goal, but it is very uncommon, at least on the collegiate level. A drop kick, like a penalty goal, is worth three points.

“At any point in play, you can drop the ball and have it touch the ground first and kick it off the ground through the uprights,” said Preising.

The Notre Dame Rugby club plays both 15s and sevens, but according to Preising, during the fall semester, the focus is often their 15s game. In the spring, the focus is often their sevens game, particularly toward the second part of the spring season.  

“We compete in the ACC for sevens,” said Preising. “It’s called the Atlantic Coast Rugby league. We gear up for our big tournament every May, which is the Collegiate Rugby Championship. It’s in Philadelphia, nationally televised.”

Compared to state schools, Notre Dame, as a smaller private school, has a much smaller pool of potential athletes. But according to Preising, this disadvantage has not daunted his club.

“We’re really showing some promise,” he said. “I’m excited for our season. We really had a good game against Arizona last week, and showed that we can compete against some of the best teams in the nation.”

Preising has found the experience of playing rugby at Notre Dame to be very rewarding, and he is proud to be a part of the team leadership this year.

“Here at Notre Dame, like I said, I was part of a brotherhood the second I set foot on the field for the first time. … It doesn’t matter what class you’re in; [it] doesn’t matter what school you go to; if you go to Holy Cross or Notre Dame, you’re welcome. It’s awesome to say I’m at the forefront of that this year,” he explained.

Rugby may be a complicated sport, but according to Preising, there is nothing like real-time experience for learning the game.

Preising also noted that at first, playing rugby can be confusing. “You just need to jump right in and just get your feet wet and knock heads and learn from experience,” he said.

For those students who have wanted to learn how to play rugby but have never had the guts to follow through on that desire, Preising had nothing but words of encouragement.

“If you want to come out and play, come out and play,” he said. “Don’t have any sort of hang-up about it, like ‘I’m too small, I’m not tough enough, I’m not going to do this well.’ Just come out and see the sport, and try to understand it, and try to play and have fun, and you might be surprised.”

James Pratt is a junior political science major. He drains mid-range jumpers on the parquet floor. Contact him at jpratt2@nd.edu.

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