Rugby, a game associated with the British empire and places like New Zealand and Samoa, has an enthusiastic following in the Inland Northwest, where club teams travel between Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Missoula, Bozeman and other cities to play in tournaments. One of the biggest around is Foolsfest in Spokane in March.
The Coeur d’Alene team is the North Idaho Osprey. The Kootenai Cup tournament was held Sept. 30, 2006 in Hayden and I interviewed some North Idaho players for this story.
Rugby is played with an oblong ball and players generally just wear shorts, a shirt and cleats. A mouth guard and sometimes a soft helmet are worn for safety. The object is to advance the ball by running, passing and kicking the ball to a goal line. The ball carrier is usually tackled to the ground by the team on defense, then the ball must be retrieved by a teammate and run again. The action can result in bloody lips, bruises, blows to the head and sometimes broken bones.
The players, usually men aged 20-50, revel in the rough play and the party afterward, which is called a “drink up”. Bloody and battered, the teams come together after a day of play for camaraderie and, sometimes, more roughhousing. The tournament t-shirt said “It’s all fun and games until someone loses a testicle.”