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Rugby ft. Keegan Taylor and Brianna Burns

Q: What does rugby mean to you?

Brianna Burns: It's like a way of life to be honest. Once your in rugby your kind of like there forever. It's my life right now.

Keegan Taylor: Rugby to me has become a form of stress relief, a way of expressing myself, and a kind of therapy for me; it is weird to say that because to most people rugby is a violent sport that only brainless guys with no fear or pain can stand and play.

Who do you play rugby for?

B: I play rugby for South Greenville Rugby Football Club.

K: Currently, I am the captain for the South Greenville Rugby Club varsity team, but I have played for multiple teams over the past years; I started out playing for the Palatine Barbarians high school team when I was in third grade, but then they made a middle school team named the Palatine Pioneers so I moved down. I have also played for the middle school State team for Illinois and the high school state team for South Carolina.

Do you play for different leagues?

B: We are all in one league girls wise. We are in a North Carolina league because there are only two other teams in South Carolina so we play a combination of teams from North and South Carolina.

K: For the past two years at the South Greenville club we have played in the state league and the MSIRL Premier League, which is the Mid-South Independent Rugby League so it includes teams from states like Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

How long have you played rugby for?

B: I've been playing for about a year and a half, but it seems like I've been playing forever and not in a bad way.

K: I have played rugby for almost nine years; I started out in third grade at nine years old.

What made you want to play rugby?

B: It was a factor of things. I'm friends with Keegan and he mentioned that he played rugby. I thought that was super cool and you get to hit people a lot. I'd always wanted to play football but girls don't play football so I got into rugby through that.

K: I come from a blood line of rugby players; my grandpa was a Springbok for South African, and my dad played for the Sharks in South Africa. So basically I was going to play rugby if I liked it or not, and lucky I fell in love with the sport straight away.

How much effort and time do you put into rugby?

B: A lot. Rugby is my life that's what I'm planning as my way into college. I practice Tuesday and Thursday for two hours each. Usually have games on Saturday and those can be one game or a tournament. Even if it is one game it could be I'll fill in as a substitute for another team if they don't have enough players which is not unusual.

K: I have put more energy and time into rugby than anything else. Practice twice a week and games on the weekend during the rugby season, and then camps over the summer it sometimes gets very tiring after a while; I am actually going to a rugby camp in New Zealand for four weeks over June and July, it is called the Inside Running Academy.

How often do you have matches?

B: Usually Saturdays. We do have tournaments like Rugger Fest, teams from all over come to Charlotte, North Carolina and it goes on for 2-3 days usually at beginning of march. You would compete against people in your league or region.

K: Right now we usually have games every weekend unless we have a free-week.

How long are your matches? Is there ever overtime?

B: It depends on what kind of match it is. Professional rugby is usually 40 min halves, but in high school can only play 90 minutes in a day so our halves can go from 25-35 minutes for teams of 15.

K: A game of rugby is usually 70 minutes long, but there can my major overtime. In the MSIRL championship match last year, South Greenville was playing the Charlotte Tigers and we were tied throughout the entire match, so we went into double overtime and we won the game by scoring a try in the last minute of the overtime. If we were still tied after the double overtime we would have gone into sudden death, which is when we choose one kicker of our team and they choose one kicker from their team, and then they both kick for points until one misses and the other makes the kick to win the match.

How do you win a rugby match?

B: You win by having the most points. You can get those points through tries, which is similar to a touchdown in football, it's worth 5 points. You have the opportunity for a conversion kick which is 2 points it's like a field goal, but you have to set the ball down in the try zone, which is like the end zone. Wherever the ball lands the kicker has to stay on the same vertical line and that is where you do your conversion. There is also penalty kicks which are 3 points but those don't happen often in high school games.

K: To win a rugby match two teams play until the time runs out and either one team has more points than the other team, or they go into overtime and they play that until one team ends the time with more points. The points are gained by scoring a try which is five points then the kicker has a chance to gain two extra points from a kick for polls, football actually evolved from rugby for the point system.

How do you get a penalty?

If someone gets a yellow card that can be awarded a penalty kick. If someone collapses a mall, when everyone is standing while trying to force the player with the ball to fall.

What position do you play? Do you enjoy the position or would you prefer a different position?

B: The position I play is called Hooker. In a scrum, 2 teams of 8 bind together to form a tunnel and the hooker gets the ball through it with my foot. I also do Lineout so when ball gets out of bounds I throws it back in and get the play started again. Hooker is important to the team. I do enjoy playing hooker but I also enjoy playing flanker. It's a more aggressive position, where they flank the scrum and push the scrum forward and when the ball is out of the scrum it's their job to go out and tackle the other team and help support the back line.

K: I am playing Blind-Side Flank, which is number six on the field. To be completely honest I would never want to change where I play; I was a scrum half two years ago in freshman and sophomore year when I was skinny and I liked playing scrum half because I could mess with people more, but flanker is such a enforcer position and you can play a lot more aggressive and I just love it.

What specific equipment do you use, if any? If applicable, please give a brief description of it's use.

B: The only protection required to have in a game is a mouth guard so teeth don't get knocked out. You have the option to wear a scrum cap which is really light padding and prevents cauliflower ear, which is getting hit to much in the ears. You can also wear certain protective gear. There is a shirt and is has pads on shoulders and chest that you wear under your jersey, but only wusses wear that.

K: I do not wear any equipment like pads because I consider them for pansy players but that is just me. The main extra thing that you wear on the field is a scrum cap, it is basically a soft padded headgear but it is not to prevent head injuries, but it can do that, it is mainly to keep your ears attached to you and to prevent cauliflower ear.

Have you ever been injured while playing? If so, how and what happened (only if you wish to share).

B: Yeah, I dislocated my knee cap that was my first major injury. You can count on it that every single game I'll hit my head on ground and get hit in the head a lot.

K: I have been constantly injured in rugby, usually only minor injuries from a pulled hamstring to a black eye, but that's why I love it, you can always tell if you are playing hard or not from what you feel after the game. However, thankfully I have never been majorly hurt in rugby, no concussions, no broken bones, or torn muscles; although, I did dislocate my shoulder once last year, but honestly it wasn’t that bad I slammed it against the ground to pop it back in and kept playing. It was in the state final last year against our rivals, Wando rugby club, and I took a run and dropped my shoulder to hit the guy who was trying to tackle me and he hit the top of my shoulder joint and popped it down out of joint.

How many people are on your team?

B: Usually there is 15 to a team. Sometimes we are short on people so right now there is about 14 people so we usually have to get a substitute from another team.

K: We have about 30 guys that consistently come to practice but we have about 45 actually signed up, which is a decent number to have for an A side and a B side team.

Do you play only your gender or co-oped? If you don't play co-op, would you be willing to?

B: It's single gender. I think it would be fun to play co-op. When you're in elementary school you can play co-ed, but once you hit puberty it's a liability to play co-op.

K: At a high school level no we do not play co-oped, but when I played in Chicago at the middle school level and under I played with a couple girls that joined the team. From experience with a co-oped team, girls usually don’t hit as hard as guys or ruck as hard as guys do, but I have been hit by a couple girls that have hit hard, one of them being Brianna Burns, and they can stand their own against the big guys on our team; so I would be cautious to say that co-oped is a good choice but I would be be against it.

How do you feel about male/female players?

B: I think they are a lot more aggressive when it comes to rugby generally, girls are in a way are kind of nice about it. Sometimes they are more rude in a bad way, they think that girls can't play as tough as they do. Not ours guy team, but sometimes other guys teams do. That is not very common. It's only happened once, and our guts team threatened to beat them up. Rugby is very much a family, it's like if you mess with one of us you mess with all of us.

K: A lot of the time guys that try out rugby for the first time are usually big ego football players that think they can run anyone over and they come to rugby trying to act tough, and I don’t really like them personally, but thankfully they realize pretty quick that without their helmets and pads they aren’t that good and they actually need to put in some work to get better. However, the people that come to rugby with a good mindset and a working attitude, I really like because they take criticism and will learn from it.

If GMC had a rugby team, would you be willing to play for it?

B: Probably not because I don't want to leave my team, but also because I feel like we would be playing in a league with less commitment.

K: Sadly if GMC created a rugby team I will be here to play for it, but I would love to see the sport expand to new schools, and if I was allowed to, anytime I came back here from Life University, I would love to coach a bit and help practice or help out anyway I could.

Would you suggest rugby to someone who is looking for a new sport to play? If so, what would you say?

B: Of course we are always looking for new people to play. Rugby is a relatively new sport so there is a lot more opportunities than in other sports. It's a great way to get out aggression. It's great way to stay fit, because rugby is a multi-skill sport.

K: I would recommend rugby to anyone, that is what is unique about rugby, anyone can play. You do not need to be a 200lb guy to play rugby and you don’t need to be lighting fast to play either. When I say anyone can play rugby I mean it, I have seen many girls and guys with completely different strengths and sizes play rugby and they are all in their right position to be great; new players just need to come out and play, and just live rugby, and most importantly have an open mind to the game.

What do you think is the best age to start playing rugby or does any age work?

B: Whenever. If you have the commitment it doesn't matter when you start because it is an easy sport to learn.

K: I started when I was nine years old, so to me when people say that they are not old enough to play for the high school team, I tell to still come out to watch and learn, get to know the teammates that you will be playing with soon. Rugby is a family sport and I mean a family of teammates, you have to trust your teammates as you would a brother or sister because at the end of the game they are the ones to pick you up again and support you.

How would you convince someone to play rugby?

B: It's hard to convince girls to play because they are scared to get hit.

K: I am not the best at convincing but one major thing I like to say to people when I want them to join is that, on the rugby field you will always be useful, unlike in football where you make one good play and people forget about it, in rugby you are constantly getting the ball, constantly running, and constantly supporting your team playing with you.

What would you say to a beginner player?

B: Listen. Listen to coaches, players with experience, read all the guides on how to play rugby, and watch all the videos you can. Learn from everything

K: I would tell a beginner player that it is alright to lose game or to not get chosen to start a game, because with rugby you have to work for it. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have sat out a game because it was a tough game and we needed only the best starters in, and I could have given up there but you need to want to play and you need to strive to get better, that is the only way to start, learn from your mistakes.

What would you say to a more experienced player?

B: I would like to talk to them to learn ins and outs of what to do. Learn things you don't know. They have insight on teams you might play, or what refs like and don't like.

K: Basically the same thing I would say to a new player. You can always get better, learn from your mistakes and get better.

Is there anything else you wish to add?

B: Rugby is a family once you get in you're in forever. There is no bad blood between the teams.

K: N/A