LT Rugby Players Tour Europe

Team competes against English and Welsh, experiences European style of play

Garrett Ariana, Reporter

As a result of their hard work and skill, some elite members of the West Suburban Bulls Rugby were selected to go on tour to England and Wales for 15 days this summer to play against cream of the crop competition.

None of the players were just put on the team simply based on their history. There was an extensive tryout for this outing that was held over a period of nine months for James Kowalski ’15, Joe Dillon ’15, Ethan McGahay ’15, Anthony Gonia ’15, Pearman Clarke ’14, Mitch Ciszewski ’15 and Michael Rasmussen ‘15 to be selected for this tour.

In November, January and March there were a series of “trials” where the boys tried out to be a part of this team that was touring, Ciszewski said. At the end of the school year, the team was announced and they were practicing all summer.

One of the main reasons this trip was organized and executed was to get the boys some first-rate competition against people who have been playing this game their entire life. President of the Chicago Area Rugby Football Union, Lou Raymond, who has been involved with the game for over 25 years now, was one of the coaches out in Europe for the group and aimed to enhance their experience with the game against these other teams.

“I wanted to expose the boys to this culture, a higher skill level, and this sense of camaraderie,” Raymond said. “They learned as they met with others that they could embrace each others differences and bond as they all had goals they were trying to meet.”

Some of the various places they traveled to and played included, Chobham, Brighton, Rotherham, Colwyn Bay and Nailsea & Backwell. Although it was the only game they lost out of the five played, Dillon and McGahay enjoyed playing in Brighton the most. McGahay loved it because it was right on the English Channel and it’s very historic as they have the third oldest rugby team in the world.

“I loved playing in Brighton,” Dillon said. “It was really fun because those nights we slept in tents on the pitch. It was easily the best field we played on and it had a cool setting.”

McGahay, Dillon and Ciszewski alike agreed that there was a huge difference in playing in America than playing in England. Due to the influence of American football here, the game becomes much more physical as compared to England.

“In England the game was a lot faster and focused on quickness and technique rather than power,” McGahay said.

Rugby, being a very foreign game in the U.S. to many, is given very little attention. According to the Guardian newspaper website, USA Rugby has around 115,000 members, and its CEO, Nigel Melville, says that more than 750,000 kids are playing non-contact “rookie rugby”. This sport has shown that it is slowly catching on and many believe it is much more team oriented than other sports.

“In rugby, everyone needs to be doing their job in order to succeed,” McGahay said. “American sports on the other hand, like football and basketball, rely on star athletes that carry their team like quarterbacks and point guards. It isn’t like that in [rugby]. We all need each other.”