This year’s Stiftungsfest is going to be big. With a parade and new events coming in, it’s no wonder that the oldest festival in Minnesota is looking forward to a great year. One new event that’s coming is a rugby game, and if you’ve never heard of rugby it might be important to brush up on what it is.
“The Stiftungsfest Committee was looking for something new to do this year,” said Alan Krueger, city council member and Stiftungsfest Committee member. “Since I used to play rugby, I suggested bringing in a couple clubs to put on a game.”
As the oldest festival in Minnesota, the Stiftungsfest Committee is always looking for something new to add in. Krueger, as an old rugby player for the Fairbault Bock Springs Club, suggested bringing in the sport. Rugby is more popular in Europe, and while known in the US, is still unfamiliar to most, so a game would serve as a unique event at Stiftungsfest while also sparking interest in the community.
Due to his connections with the Fairbault Bock Springs Club, they’ve been invited to this year’s Stiftungsfest to play a game against the River City Rugby Club. Both clubs are 50 years old, so as part of the game, they are honoring their many hall of fame holders.
The community participation for the rugby game is simply to watch. As a full contact sport, signing a release is required as part of joining a club as well signing up for insurance, since injury is possible and not uncommon. If someone does get interested, there are clubs around the state to talk to, but for the purposes of Stiftungsfest, this game is all about watching and learning.
Rugby is very much its own game, but fans of soccer and American football will see echoes of those sports in rugby. A full contact sport, the goal of rugby is to get a ball to one end of the field to the other with a literal touch down called a “tri”, as in the ball has to make contact with the ground. To get the ball across the field, players can pass the ball laterally and backwards, but not forwards. Instead, if they want to aim the ball forward, they have to kick it.
Of course, things are much more complex than that, but that’s the gist of how the game works. Like football, there are lines on the field, but only with a center line and two 22 meter marks. A touchdown scores three points, and kicks are worth two per success. Teams are made up of 15 people, with forwards and backs split evenly with one player serving as the halfback. Forwards are also called “scrummies”, and they participate in “scrums” with group tackles. They also throw the ball, which a reminder that they can only throw backwards and laterally, not forward. For the ball to go forward, it has to be kicked.
The plan is to have the game at 6pm on Friday August 27 at Central High School’s main football stadium. Given that rugby players don’t mind mud and ice on their field, rain won’t really stop the game. If the field gets extremely wet, the clubs have already been given the option to move to the practice field instead if they need to, so rain or shine rugby will be happening.
For anyone wanting more details of how a rugby game works or the specific terms, never fear. Before the game starts, viewers can come and see a clinic so they can understand the basics. If you want to see some rugby games yourself to really get to know them, New Zealand has clubs that frequently post to Youtube, as they have some of the best in the world.