The Gentleman’s Sport

Posted by    |    November 22nd, 2010 at 11:19 am

With the familiarity of a sport you already know, but with the added sophistication of a European accent and the exotic appeal of South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, and Argentina (who also happen to have world-class rugby teams), Rugby is at the “tipping point”.  For those broken-hearted Cowboys and Rangers fans who need to cheer for a dominant local team again the Dallas Harlequins Rugby Club is the perfect rebound.  As one of the most successful Dallas’ sports franchises, they’re still practically anonymous.  Rugby is like the underground music scene of the sports world: they’re not mainstream and when you see it for the first time you feel cooler.

typical tackle

The Dallas Harlequins are part of the National Rugby Super League (a select number of the best teams in the country); they have a ridiculously dominating record in the Texas conference, a winning record in the Western conference, and 3 appearances in the national championship.  Not only is their record impressive but the organization is as good as some of the best clubs in the world.  Best of all you’ll find the club to be warm and welcoming to new players as well as fans, and they play right in central Dallas at Glencoe Park, off of Mockingbird.

Harlequins Website

I assume that, like NASCAR, most people enjoy watching football for the big collisions. In this sense, Rugby is more impressive than football with its relentless cringe-worthy hits.  With the NFL cracking down on the concussion craze and players worrying more about accessorizing with sweatbands than contact, Rugby’s unrelenting hard hitting no-frills no-pads game will leave you reeling!  It’s not all about the tackles (but if you don’t believe me check the link below); it’s a non-stop action-filled sport and an impressive show of endurance and athleticism.  Think American Football without all the time-outs or breaks and lots of lateral passing.  Rugbiers take pride in their code of conduct, respect for the game, referees and a sense of camaraderie that has endured over 150 years. Talk to any “old rugger” and you will learn what a unique sport it is.  Although there are some differences the general game is relatable.

Rugby hits…awesome

Important Differences:

-Forward pass in football – only lateral passes in Rugby (as used to be the rule in football)
-Protective padding in football, whereas Rugby uses none (an occasional cloth helmet to protect vanity rather than concussions)
-Football has touchdowns and rugby has try’s (ironically in Rugby the ball actually has to be touched down to the ground as was the rule originally in Football but now the ball just has to cross the plain but they kept the name)
-The points scored are rewarded differently
-Practically no stoppage time in rugby and only 2 halves – football has 4 quarters and a lot of time-outs
-Various rules and fouls are handled differently

There are more differences in the details, but the sports are closely related
Rugby gets a ringing endorsement from The Most Interesting Man in the World, who plays on the weekends with his old school chums in between yachting adventures.  And while all Rugbiers may not indulge in Dos Equis beer, they’re definitely drinking something after practice or a hard-fought match with the opposing team.  Socializing is an equally important aspect of the game. Join the team for a pint after practice for the full experience.

If you think Rugby is just for ex-pats from Australia or South Africa (you saw Invictus) and you wouldn’t really fit in, you’ll be surprised to find out that the majority of players are actually American.  These players are from a new generation of home-grown rugby athletes and it’s amazing to see the solid talent developed in just a few decades, and our “Quins” are at the front of the pack!

Why is one of Dallas’s most successful sports franchises largely unknown and unsupported when Rugby is one of the most popular sports in the world? I assume it is because there is no official “professional” national league, it’s not an Olympic event (it used to be), or a varsity college sport, and there is no fantasy league.  Regardless, Rugby has found a home in the U.S. and especially in Dallas.  If you aren’t familiar with the sport or with the Harlequins, the good news is that I will be covering them this season and you can always go out and watch them in your own backyard!

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