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‘Hard-charging’ rugby players cap successful season with win

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Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 12:00 pm

By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

A rugby match is 80 minutes of near-constant action, with no breaks to reset between forward or back plays or between tackles.

Despite players' best efforts, it's been hard for the Fort Hood Rugby Football Club to maintain the same kind of momentum as a team, given the on-off deployment cycles of the last decade.

But the club, which traces its roots back to 1972, has had as successful a season as any in recent memory, with seven wins and one loss, and two players picked for the All-Army Rugby Team.

"It's a great team, great party and great people," said team captain Lt. Dan Schmidt, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "It's a newer sport, so the guys who are willing to try it out are generally tough and open-minded."

Schmidt, who played rugby in high school and college, said he helped revive a fledgling team shortly after he arrived at Fort Hood in January 2010. He left to deploy to Iraq with 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, in January 2011 and returned last fall.

The 30-some-member team now practices twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the Venable Village Elementary School field, marked by a giant black storage container with the words "Fort Hood rugby" painted in red.

Schmidt leads the team in short scrimmages and ball drills, encouraging players to ask questions and chastising those who arrive late. The rest of the players contribute to the playful teasing and jeers requisite to any organized sport.

The formula seems to be working. Among the team's victories this season was one against Baylor University on its own turf. The team traveled to Savannah, Ga., last month for the annual St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament.

That's where Sgt. Bryan Woodard, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, and Lt. Josh Wright, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were recruited to the All-Army Rugby Team.

Both soldiers played football in college and said the switch to rugby - from which American football evolved - wasn't too difficult.

"I love this game," said Woodard. "I'm hooked."

Wright agreed, saying he appreciated the opportunity to engage in a serious, organized sport past his college days.

"It's a pretty physical sport," he said. "A lot of guys want to go home and relax and 'veg' out (after work), but some of us want to maintain that athleticism and play a team sport year-round."

Spc. Eric Brown, 589th Brigade Support Battalion, 41st Fires Brigade, said he'd been playing rugby for 10 years in his native Samoa, where the sport enjoys widespread popularity.

The 20-year-old was surprised and happy to learn from some fellow Samoan soldiers that Fort Hood, his first duty station, had its own rugby club, he said.

"It's a great team," said Brown. "There's great discipline, how they practice and how they play."

Brown said Schmidt helps make it that way.

"He's a man of his word, and he wants us to be better - not just to be better as a team, but for us to take the next step," he said.

Brown, who played rugby for his high school in Samoa, described the game as a "man's sport," in which nerve is as important as skill or brawn.

"Even if you've got a small body, if it's on your heart that you can do it, you can take that (player) down," he said.

Despite the aggressive nature of the game, the players said the rivalry ends on the pitch. Unlike in many organized sports, they said, games nearly always end with a party with the other team.

"We're pretty hard-charging," said Schmidt, smiling.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.

More information

The Fort Hood Rugby Football Club played its last game of the season Saturday in Killeen against the Katy Lions Rugby Football Club, beating them 22-15.

For more information on Fort Hood rugby, go to http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/forthoodrugbyfootballclub/.

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