Men’s rugby growing in valley

Doug Evans coaches rugby at all levels, including the Colorado Mesa men’s club team. He gave up a college football scholarship once he started playing rugby in California.


An interesting Game

Rugby terms

Try — Method of scoring worth five points by touching the ball down in the opponent’s goal area.

Try-line — Otherwise known as the goal line, so-called because a player has to cross this line to score a try.

Conversion — After a team scores a try, a player will attempt to kick the ball between the goal posts. It’s worth two extra points if successful.

Lineout — Looks somewhat like a jump-ball in basketball. Line-outs restart play after the ball, or a player carrying it, has gone out of bounds.

Maul — This occurs when three or more players, including the ball carrier and at least one other player from either side, are in contact together.

Pitch — The rugby playing field is also referred to as a pitch.

Ruck — A loose formation created around a free ball or a player who has been brought to the ground with the ball.

Scrum (Scrummage) — A tight formation between the two opposing teams in readiness for the ball to be put in the tunnel between the two front rows and brought out into play. The next step is “feeding the scrum,” which is when the ball is rolled into the tunnel.

Knock On — Jargon for a ball that is lost, dropped, or knocked forward from a rugby player’s hand. This results in the ball being awarded to the opposition in a scrum.

Rugby in the Olympics

Rugby was a sport in several Olympic Games during the 20th century, but 1924 was the last year it was a medal sport. Rugby will return to the Olympics in 2016.

1900 — Three teams competed, France won the gold medal over Great Britain and Germany.

1908 — France pulled out, leaving only Great Britain and Australia, which won the gold.

1920 — Only two teams, United States won the gold over France. U.S. player Charles Paddock also competed in track and earned a silver medal in the 100-meter dash and a gold medal in the 400-meter relay.

1924 — The Olympic Games in Paris had France, U.S. and Romania. U.S. upset France for the gold.

1936 — Rugby had been dropped from the Olympics, but an exhibition match during the Games in Berlin was won by France.

2016 — Rugby will return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Doug Evans can’t imagine a place without rugby.

Everywhere he’s lived, he’s either played rugby, started a rugby team or coached the sport.

Now he’s in Grand Junction, and he’s got big plans for growing rugby in the valley.

“Rugby has been life-changing for me,” he said. “The camaraderie, friends, the demands of the sport, the competition ... It’s a brotherhood, and that’s what we’re striving to let people know here.”

Now in his second year as the coach of the Colorado Mesa University men’s rugby club, Evans keeps rugby at the center of his life. It’s nearly a year-round endeavor for the 57-year-old
California native.

He coaches the CMU men in the fall, then coaches a high school team in the spring, then he turns his attention to the local men’s team in the summer.

This year’s CMU team is up to 34 players. The men’s team in the summer had 24 players with many of them being CMU players. It’s at the high school level where Evans has seen a huge jump.

When he first started the team, which has players from every District 51 school, they had seven players and were forced to join an Aspen team.

Last spring, they had 36 players out for the Grand Junction team, and he’s expecting as many as 50 players in 2014. If the numbers jump that much, he said they will break it into two teams. There are 15 players on the field per team.

Evans said the sport gets a bad rap as being too rough.

“Everybody has a fear of the sport because there are no pads,” he said. “They’re afraid they will get hurt. But our sport is much safer (than others).”

Evans said the lack of pads is actually one of the things that makes it safer.

Players don’t lead with their head, they don’t chop at a runner’s legs, and when tackling, a player is grabbed and taken to the ground and held there, which forces the player to release the ball, he said.

“Don’t confuse rugby with Australian rules football,” Evans said.

His goal is to recruit new players, and that means educating them about rugby.

“I tell them it’s not what you think it is. I feel like it’s the greatest sport ever,” he said.

Evans said he had a college football scholarship in northern California, but after he played rugby, he handed in his helmet.

“I tried rugby and quit the (football) team,” he said.

Rugby combines three sports, Evans said. It has the running and conditioning of soccer, the physicality of football and the jumping of basketball.

He said there are injuries, but they are less severe than football. But, he added, concussions are still part of rugby, just like football.

Evans said former football players make good rugby players, but his ideal new player is one who has no experience at any sport.

“The biggest challenge with football players is to get the football (thinking) out of them. I really like guys who have never played any sport,” he said.

The sport is also good for any size of players with roles for bigger players and smaller, faster players. The main thing about the sport, he said, is it’s physically demanding with a heavy demand on running and the contact of tackling.

Right now teams play at Dixson Field, which is one of only six regulation-sized fields in the state, Evans said. He added CMU plans to build a full-sized field on campus, which will increase the sport’s visibility.

Evans hopes to develop teams at the middle school level, which will feed the high school teams and adult club teams.


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