Club rugby more than just barbarity

by David La

There are many who write off rugby as a barbaric hybrid of football and soccer.
But for the University’s club team, the more physical the game, the more immense the measure of respect that is given to a teammate who doesn’t quit.
The team practices almost year-round, and while it gets all walks and sizes of people to come out, it takes a certain demeanor — not just physical attributes — to ensure success. Ben Schneider is one such example.
Schneider was initially recruited out of the East Bank Recreational Center in 1995 for a body that looked primed for doing considerable discomfort to an opponent. But the former football and hockey player found out quickly that size and strength aren’t all the tools a rugby player has to have in his belt. In fact, his ignorance to the fundamentals of the game earned him his nickname, “Meathead.”
“We were at practice one day and I was doing something stupid,” Schneider said. “Someday yelled, `Hey, Meathead,’ because they didn’t know my name, and sure enough, it stuck.”
Growing pains aside, Schneider has come to grow fond of rugby on many different levels.
“Rugby is probably the most fulfilling game I’ve played in all my life,” Schneider said. “I heard someone once say that you should have one thing fun planned to do everyday, and that’s what rugby is for me.
“There so much behind it. These guys on the team are my roommates, guys I go out with, guys I have class with. It gives a neighborhood feeling to the campus.”
If the campus is their neighborhood, the quagmire field in the shadow of the Riverview apartments on the West Bank is the playground where the intense individuals come together to hone their trade.
Spring practices are not conducted under a dome, but rather in a sort of defiance of the elements. Players wear whatever is clean or whatever can be sacrificed to the badlands — not matching practice jerseys. And yet, they are somehow a team in the purest sense of the word.
While the facilities leave something to be desired, stalwarts like Schneider are quick to point out that being part of a solid team overshadows the meager practice accommodations.
“(Younger guys) see where we are now, the U of M that beats up on people. But they don’t know what it was like when those guys who recruited me played,” Schneider said. They were the ones who put in the hard work to make the team what it is today.
“I know what their sacrifices were, and I’m going to go out and lead by example. I’m going to make that first hit.”
Perhaps in rugby, being physical comes first, but it’s the bonds no opponent can break that last.