Tacoma Aroma 7’s the latest showcase for local rugby

// Club features new coach, hoping to attract more players

Tacoma Nomads Rugby Club President Ryan McHugh hopes that his club can continue to reflect a rise in the popularity of the sport in the near future. With a greater exposure on television and the fact that seven-man rugby will become an Olympic sport in 2016, McHugh notes that it is important to continue to grow the sport locally.

“It’s kind of a big deal,” said McHugh of rugby’s future inclusion in the Olympics, “and it’s really gaining in popularity across America.”

The Tacoma Rugby Club hosted and participated in the 35th annual “Tacoma Aroma 7’s” rugby tournament – the longest-running seven-man rugby tournament in the Northwest – on July 28 at the Portland Avenue Playfields.

Twelve high school teams converged to battle it out for the state championships, including the Tacoma Tsunamis and Harbour Hurricanes, who are affiliated with the Tacoma Rugby Club. In addition, the Tacoma Nomads competed in the 16-team men’s open division, which featured teams from across Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

“It’s just wide open,” said McHugh of seven-man rugby, which is played on the same sized pitch as the more traditional 15-man game. “It’s gaining in popularity across the world because it’s an easier game to play than 15’s.”

With new head coach Ross Gilbert – a native of Edinburgh, Scotland who has been involved in playing or coaching the sport for 33 years – also in the fold, the future for the club, and the Nomads specifically, seems bright.

“My philosophy with rugby is to make it as inclusive as possible – to give the guys something they wouldn’t get just training by themselves in the gym,” said Gilbert, who now lives in Gig Harbor and has brought in wrestling coaches and conditioning coaches to help train his players.

Gilbert notes, however, that the level of skill in the sport still does not compare to that of his homeland or other European countries, mainly because players take up the sport at a later age.

“It’s difficult because sports are so driven by television,” said Gilbert, adding that a big draw to rugby is that it offers “a level of camaraderie, along with that you’re going to get a good workout and become fitter…if you offer that, the right kind of player will come.”

As the Nomads – which feature players that range in age from 18 years old to the mid-30’s – prepare for the upcoming 15-man season that begins in September, McHugh and Gilbert hope that players with a different background in sports might look to give rugby a try.

“Each American sport brings one aspect of the game, and that’s a really cool aspect of rugby,” McHugh said. “You’ll tackle, you’ll play defense, you’ll run, you’ll kick the ball.”

McHugh said that players interested in checking out the club can attend practice free of charge for the first several times, and decided whether or not to join later. The team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Portland Avenue Playfields.

“Anyone who wants to come down and try it out, we’ll make it very easy for them to do that,” Gilbert added.

For more information on the Tacoma Rugby Club visit http://www.tacomarugby.com

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