If you’re really looking to test your mettle, the Rhode Island Rebellion rugby team is looking for players. The semi-pro club was established two years ago by CEO Lawrence Almagno as a charter member of the USA Rugby League, an eight-league team that spans the East Coast from Boston to Jacksonville.
The format is rugby “league,” a 13v13 game on a rectangular field designed to be a faster, more entertaining version of its counterpart rugby “union” (played 15v15 on an oval field). Almagno describes league play as an influence on modern day American football, though Almagno himself first discovered it halfway around the world in Australia. “It’s a blast and it’s for the everyday person. We’re picking up guys who might have been hockey players or wrestlers, but never played rugby. I’d say half our team has union experience and the other half has no experience at all.”
While only 17 players make the cut each week for games, Almagno encourages anyone interested to check out the club. “We have about 30 guys, so even if you don’t make the cut there’s a competitive reserve squad. Just show up to Classical High School where we train.” No experience is needed, but Almagno cites the one key trait shared by good rugby league players, “You have to be mentally tough. You don’t have to be the best tackler or have the greatest ability, but you’re hitting someone on every play and your mind needs to tell you to keep going, even when you think you physically can’t. Although playing will certainly force you to be in shape.”
To promote the sport, Almagno is launching a “social” league this summer geared toward 18-35 year-olds who will play other clubs around New England. The beta test for this format is currently underway with an under-23 league that plays a 9v9 version of the game over an eight-week season. The teams include a squad from the Rhode Island Training School for Youth, a product of Almagno’s focus on youth development, “Many of these kids try new things but then fall back into their element, which can sometimes be negative. If we can offer a pro- gression from youth to adult teams and become a part of their social life, it can be a positive influence.”
Almagno also sees a women’s club in the future: “I’m interested in doing it, but I don’t really have the personnel right now. If anyone has the gumption to organize, just contact me and I’m down to help them get going. They can train alongside us.” Almagno says it’s just an extension of the Rebellion’s exponential growth: “it’s a dream every day that people are catching on.”
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