ASU rugby plays and parties hard

10-08-08 Rugby
Varsity rugby players Ravi DeFilippo, left, and Brad Yandle pose for a portrait after practice at the Student Recreation Complex fields Tuesday. (Lindy Mapes/The State Press)
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008
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There is something unique about the international game of rugby.

With most sports, the game ends and the players shake hands and go their separate ways.

Rugby features a unique blend of brutal in-game collisions and affable postgame get-togethers.

The “social” or “third half,” as it’s sometimes referred to, is a tradition that dates back to the sport’s inception.

“It’s part of the culture of rugby,” ASU men’s rugby team president Ravi DeFilippo said.

DeFilippo played football throughout high school and said he was taught to despise the other team.

But in rugby, where 15 players on either side of the ball make it the largest major team sport, a suspension of competition leads to friendships off of the field.

The “social” provides a forum for the home team to welcome their once-hated visitors for a postgame meal and beverages — traditionally, cold beer.

But the celebration does not begin and end with the banquet. The opposing teams engage in another time-honored tradition: singing.

It may be difficult to envision an athlete – one who chooses to run full speed and without padding into his opponent – as the singing type. But the songs of rugby players won’t be getting any radio time anytime soon.

The two teams usually start out with their respective anthems. The melodies and lyrics quickly progress into mostly profane material.

“[The songs] definitely are vulgar, [but] we do try to refrain from singing certain songs in certain public places,” DeFilippo said.

DeFilippo, a four-year member of the team and a geology senior at ASU, said he missed playing sports after he got out of high school and he liked the contact aspect of rugby.

In fact, DeFilippo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in February, which will force him to miss the 2008 season.

The team’s 2007 season was marred by injuries, communications sophomore Brad Yandle said.

Yandle, a second-year member of the team, said the team would need to improve its passing and be more consistent with tackling to be competitive this year.

The Sun Devils will play an exhibition game Nov. 8 against the Tempe Old Devils, a local men’s club team.

ASU’s first regular-season matchup will be against archrival UA on Nov. 15 at 7p.m. at the Student Recreation Complex fields on the Tempe campus.

It’s the social constructs around the sport that drew DeFilippo and Yandle to ASU’s club.

DeFilippo said, “After the first practice, you feel like you’re part of a family.”

Yandle described the “social” as an event that is geared around team camaraderie.

He said that the songs can be offensive to some, but it’s all about having a good time with teammates.

“Those songs have been passed down for hundreds of years,” Yandle said. “It’s not something just ASU does; it’s something every club does.”

Yandle said the most important part of the game to him is the team aspect, which extends beyond a recent opponent.

“It’s the way rugby teams treat each other,” Yandle said. “I can go anywhere in the world and talk to a rugby club and have a place to sleep.”

Reach the reporter at emschimm@asu.edu.