A Rough, Yet Personal, Sport

For the first time since the seniors of the current Radcliffe Rugby Football Club walked onto the team, the tight-knit group of roughly 25 women might end the season on a triumphal cadence.

Once a team floundering at the bottom of their division, Radcliffe Rugby finished the fall regular season undefeated. Now in the playoffs, only two games stand between the recently reinvigorated team and a spot at nationals in the spring.

What is underlying this comeback is not only amped up recruitment and placement in a new division, but also a close community capable of overcoming both team tragedy and past defeat. Perhaps the best representation of this community—bound by a sport that is rough yet highly personal—is what team members call a unifying facet of the game: rugby songs.

“They’re basically really vulgar songs,” Amy J. Uber ’10-11 says. “I’m trying to think of a clean one.”


There was a rainstorm the day before Radcliffe rugby’s first round play-off game early last week against Boston College. The intramural fields behind Harvard stadium were so sloppy that even in cleats, the players kept slipping through the muck. These are terrible conditions to play in, Uber—who broke her fibula in an early season game—comments from the sidelines, but it makes the game cinematic.

“It is a rough sport,” Uber says, “we like to show off our bruises.”Just as the sport’s songs remain largely unknown to the average American spectator, so too do the general rules of rugby.

“It seems like a really brute game but really it requires a lot of intelligence and strategy,” Margaret G. “Meg” McCarty ’12 says as she watches her team run through a drill during a Wednesday morning practice a few days after the BC game.

It’s raining, and the players—who aren’t wearing any protective gear except mouth guards—appear to converge on the large, egg-shaped ball and collapse into a heap.The play resumes, and the women continue to shout colorful jargon at each other. “During the game rugby has so much more communication than any other sport because it’s so complicated,” Captain Anna M. Ruman ’10 says. “You have to constantly, constantly be talking,” the team’s other captain, Rachelle M. Calixte ’10 chimes in. “I almost always lose my voice after a game.”

A “breakdown,” they explain, occurs when a player with the ball is tackled to the ground. A “ruck” occurs when players from both teams fight for the ball after a tackle. The ball can travel down the field, they explain, by being kicked or carried, but not thrown forward. If the ball goes out of bounds, it is returned to play in a “line-out.” During a line-out both teams form pods around a player and guide her into the air, helping her try to catch the ball. For a moment, this near lift resembles a cheerleading move.

“It’s sort of like a jump ball on steroids,” says Jennifer O. Middleton ’10, the club’s president.  After each game, the players explain, it’s time to party—with the other team.


“We bring a grill and we barbecue after the game,” says Uber, who is one of the team’s social chairs. “And we go back to someone’s dorm room and basically we drink and sing songs.”

It is a rugby tradition for opposing teams to socialize after the game, and rugby songs are a staple of any post-game get-together.

Most teams know the words to the choruses, and verses often incorporate players’ names and positions. “They generally all have to do with drinking or something like that,” Uber says, trying to pick one she could sing for The Crimson.


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