Stingers rugby teams remain unknown by students despite success

It’s already been a year since I started covering Concordia Stingers games for The Concordian. I’ve always dreamed of being a sports journalist, and being in an environment where you enjoy your job so much that the word ‘work’ doesn’t exist for you.

To get the chance to cover sports games, interview people, and gain experience every day while having fun doing it is amazing. To be able to do so constantly during my studies is a privilege.

I remember one of my first assignments for the paper; to cover a rugby game. When I talk about the pleasures of gaining experience while having fun, that’s exactly it.

A few years ago, I started watching rugby games on television. I was interested, but mostly intrigued by this sport which, in my mind, had many similarities with American football. I was pretty excited the day I was covering the game, but I didn’t know all the rules and had to do a bit of research beforehand.

I’ve covered a couple of rugby games since, and each time it seems like my love for the sport just keeps growing.

That being said, when I cover those games as a journalist, there’s one thing I never forget, and it’s the reader. I am not writing a sport game recap for myself, but for the people reading it. Sometimes, it happens that you know your subject so well that you could talk about it forever. However, that doesn’t mean the person in front of you can do the same. Last week, someone put exactly what I mean into words.

Rugby doesn’t seem to be well-known by the Concordia community. That’s what I realized when someone asked me to repeat the word ‘rugby’ three times because she never heard it before.

More popular in other continents like Europe and Oceania, rugby was born more than 2,000 years ago. In what was first considered a game of football, the sport started to present unique rules that then differentiated it from other sports.

Rugby developed and became popular in many schools and regions in Europe, which can explain the popularity of the game there today, especially in England. The country’s currently ranked third in the men’s rankings of World Rugby, the most prestigious international league. A Rugby World Cup is played every four years, opposing the top international teams.

The last World Rugby Cup, in 2015, was won by the New Zealand All Blacks team. It was the first time a team won back-to-back World Rugby Cups. The All Blacks are considered by many as the best. In fact, they are on top of the league’s rankings.

However, what people most often talk about with regards to the All Blacks is their unique choreography before games, called ‘haka,’a traditional dance form of the Māori people of New Zealand.

Rules of today’s rugby aren’t the same as the ones used in the game’s early stages, neither are the terms and equipment. Main elements differing rugby from other sports include backward passes of the ball, mauls, scrums, and even tries scored by teams.

In rugby, a team scoring a try, which is five points plus an extra two with a successful conversion after, can only do so by placing the ball behind the opponent’s dead ball area. In football, such a try is called a touchdown and may also be scored with a passing play.

That is one of many differences between rugby and other sports. I could write a thousand words about the rules of rugby, but that would make this a boring piece.

Instead, let’s focus on the rugby played at Concordia with the two Stingers rugby teams.

In fact, the teams can’t do any better right now. The men’s team, back-to-back Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) champions, is currently on a 22-game winning streak and haven’t lost a game in the league since 2016. The team has even participated to the previous and first two editions of the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship with their RSEQ titles of 2017 and 2018.

Concordia will host the Championship this year, marking a third appearance at the tournament in as many years for the Stingers. The event will be held at Concordia Stadium from Nov. 20-24.

On the women’s side, the team has bounced back from a 2-7 season last year to a perfect 6-0 record this season. Despite their RSEQ semi-final loss against the Université Laval Rouge et Or, the team has been impressive all season long.

Fourth-year player on the men’s team Lucas Hotton said it’s understandable that people aren’t familiar with the sport. He said that rugby grew up from what we now call American football, but people grew up following the evolved North American version of the game.

“If you go elsewhere than North America, rugby is likely the leading contact sport,” Hotton said. “It has a low barrier to entry, great core values, and is a sport accepting everyone. To grow the game’s popularity is really difficult with football’s market already in place, but I believe you can work with high schools and clubs to improve participation at junior levels, and hopefully keep the kids in the sport as they grow older into senior level. It’s a tough task, but one that really needs to be addressed on this continent, in the country and in this province.”

To have Concordia’s sports facilities at Loyola’s campus instead of near downtown’s campus might explain in part why most students aren’t connected to Stingers rugby. That’s at least what Hotton suggested, saying there is a lack of connections between them and the teams.

“Most students study and have based themselves downtown,” Hotton said. “Loyola is quite foreign and far to them. Even the shuttle bus doesn’t operate most game days, which are during weekends. I don’t think we’ll see any field appear downtown, but if there’s a way to bring the [games] to downtown’s campus, I’m sure the connection would be made.”

Hotton played other sports before discovering rugby at CEGEP. A friend invited him to try out for the school’s team and his love for the game started to grow. He explained that like in many sports, rugby brings fundamental values. However, he thought this was even more true with rugby.

“I’ve had the privilege of playing many sports, and there’s not one like rugby,” Hotton said. “[You’re playing your game, might hurt someone], but at the end you’re still hanging out and buying that person a beer after the game. Most of the time it’s someone you’ve never met before.”

Both Stingers rugby teams play in the RSEQ. But there are slight differences. With seven teams in the RSEQ men’s rugby, each team faces each other once during the regular season for a total of six games. There is only one division, or in other words pool, with all seven teams together.

However, the RSEQ women’s rugby presents eight teams, which divides teams into two groups of four. The Stingers are playing in Section B and are facing each teams of their division twice in the season, for a total of six games. They can’t play teams of Section A except in the RSEQ playoffs.

While the women’s team’s season is officially over after their loss to the Rouge et Or, the men’s team will play its next and final game of the regular season on Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. against the Bishop’s University Gaiters. With a current 5-0 record, the team will look to conclude its regular season undefeated for a third straight year.


Feature photo by Laurence B.D.

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