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Articles Home - Rugby in the Dominican Republic
"Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles."  Alex Karras

It takes a special type of individual to play rugby, but rarely do rugby players consider themselves as such. Tough, resilient and strong are words often related to the sport, and rightly so. Players challenge themselves and their minds in marathon games that require more than just fit bodies and broad shoulders. Unprotected players are vulnerable to dangerous hits and although the violence is a deterrent for many would-be fans, for those curious enough to venture onto a pitch, interest is derived partly from the violence and aggressiveness of the sport. But beyond the mere physicality of the game lies a code of conduct that represents the best aspects of sportsmanship and goes beyond the field to the way many players carry themselves in society. Rugby in the DR is still relatively small, but it is a sport with a strong foundation that is attracting the interest of many who are willing to take what this sport has to offer. The history of rugby in the DR is relatively short, dating back only about 40 years by some accounts, but with the foundations set by early participants, rugby’s presence will continue to develop in years to come.

History of the sport
There are conflicting theories about exactly how rugby was invented. In fact there is increasing evidence that disputes the traditional theory about rugby’s invention, which gives the credit to a young theology student named William Webb Ellis. Webb was a student at Rugby School in England between 1816 and 1825. Lore has it that during a soccer match, in 1823, Webb caught the ball in his hands, which at the time was allowed, and then ran with it towards the opponent’s end, scoring a goal. Stories of Webb’s “invention” didn’t come until four years after his death, in 1872, but investigations have continually disproved that he had any role the sport’s development. Still, he is considered the father of the game and his name has forever been linked to the sport. Rugby’s popularity spread quickly and the sport grew by leaps and bounds during those first years. The first rugby club, Guy’s Hospital, was founded in England in 1843 and by 1846 the first official rules of the game had been written. In 1871 rugby took a big step forward with the foundation of the Rugby Football Union and in 1877 Scotland and England played the first international match in Edinburgh, Scotland.

How the game is played
Rugby is a full-contact sport where players rarely wear any padding at all. The sport bears many similarities to American football, considering that that sport is a derivative of rugby, but rugby has many distinctive features. Rugby matches last for 80 minutes, divided into two 40-minute halves. Teams are made up of 15 players and each team tries to score as many points as possible during the allotted time. Teams can score points in two ways, by either scoring a “try” or a “goal”. A try is scored when the ball is placed on the ground between the “in-goal” area, the equivalent of an end zone. A try is worth five points. A goal is scored by kicking the ball between the uprights. Conversion goals are worth two points and drop-kick goals are worth three points. Players advance the ball, on a 100-yard pitch, by either kicking the oval shaped ball down the field or running with the ball and passing it to teammates who are also running up field. Rules state that only the ball carrier can be tackled, but these tackles are often very violent in nature. Unlike American football, where play stops frequently, rugby is continuous and play only stops when a rule is broken.

There are various international organizations that regulate rugby, including the International Amateur Rugby Federation and the North America and West Indies Rugby Association, but the International Rugby Board, located in the Irish capital, Dublin, is the world governing and law-making body for the sport. There are 95 full members and the IRB organizes the Rugby World Cup, which is played every four years.

Rugby players in the DR practice at the UASD and at the fields of the Centro Olimpico. It doesn’t cost anything to practice. Sometimes players are asked to contribute some funds and the uniforms are made locally. Most of the players are Dominican, but there are also Argentinean, Colombian, French, Belgian, Spanish, American and even Fijian players.

History of the sport in the DR
The history of rugby in the DR doesn’t quite lend itself to the myth and development displayed in the sport’s early stages. Instead, it was the simple desire of one man that brought the sport to the country. By all accounts rugby was introduced by French diplomat Jean Paul Bosseu Tercero in 1969. The only problem for Bosseu was that no one knew how to play the game. The French diplomat had to then embark on the difficult task of teaching the game to the locals. The sport’s popularity quickly grew, especially among foreigners in the country, and spread throughout the DR with teams forming in San Cristobal, La Romana and Santo Domingo.

Jean Paul Rugby Club was founded in memory of the ambassador who introduced the game to the country. Some of the original rugby teams were the Santo Domingo Rugby Club, the Caciques de Constanza, Diablitos de Charlies and the UCE team in San Pedro de Macorís. The nucleus of these teams was made up of foreigners residing in the country. There were also teams from the UASD, one from the UNPHU, Los Mina and San Cristobal.

Dominican universities have always served as a breeding ground for sporting development in the country, and this was to rugby’s benefit. The sport grew among students, mainly international students studying in the DR. By the 1970s the National Rugby Union was founded and Dr. William Acosta was named the Union’s first president. During this period rugby was developing a strong foundation, with local teams playing in national and international competitions, and by the 1980s rugby had grown exponentially in the DR creating a strong and dedicated following throughout the country. By then a total of 10 teams were active in the DR and the sport was moving into the forefront of the Dominican sports scene. In 1988 the UNPHU held an international rugby tournament with several national and international teams. Unfortunately, though, the sport couldn’t maintain this growth.
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