FEATURE ‌ No Pads Needed 

Local rugby clubs host teams of vicious maulers from across the country

click to enlarge Rugby players take to the field in a no-holds-barred sevens tournament this weekend
  • Rugby players take to the field in a no-holds-barred sevens tournament this weekend

Fifth Annual Charleston Memorial Day Sevens Tournament
Sat. May 26, 10 a.m.
Old Naval Base, North Charleston

Even the most cursory investigation into the sport of rugby will turn up a certain intriguing tidbit. Namely, that along with the "Tighthead Prop" and the "Blindside Flanker," the sport has a position called the "Hooker." So when you're writing about rugby, the overwhelming temptation is to make a "hooker" joke. What else is funny about rugby? You're practically required to make a "hooker" joke, right? Wrong. It's too easy, the stuff of lesser writers. I hereby promise you'll have no "hooker" jokes from me.

There's a lot more to rugby than vaguely suggestive terminology. For instance: beer. A case in point is the upcoming Memorial Day Sevens Tournament, hosted by local ruggers the Charleston Outlaws. The "captain's party" and the three-bar pub-crawl the sponsors are putting on get equal billing with the rugby in the event's promotional material. In fact, according to Pam Wike, who plays Eight Man, Fly-Half, and Wing for the Charleston's women's team, some players like to get loaded up before they go play a match. Apparently, it helps the smaller players overcome whatever evolutionary instincts are screaming at them not to play this brutal, violent game. And being drunk apparently helps the big guys play better rugby.

The tournament, which starts at 10 a.m. on May 26, is being played at the old Naval Base in North Charleston. And don't think the ladies are left out of the action — the tournament will feature a women's bracket alongside the men's. But Wike wants to dispel any preconceptions you may have about female rugby players. "We break the mold," she says, asserting that the women maintain their femininity even while playing this aggressive sport. For proof, look no further than the website of the Charleston Hurricanes, www.charlestonwomensrugby.org. There you'll find a link to the team's "sexy calendar," a 15-month collection full of provocative poses and well-placed cleats.

As for Charleston's men's team, the Outlaws are a collection of stout gentlemen who don't appear the least bit concerned with keeping their uniforms Bounty-fresh. They boast nicknames like "Taffy," "Faccia," "Grandpa," and "The Donkey." Or maybe those are the names of the positions they play. I couldn't tell. Either way, it's gotta suck to be "The Donkey."

In any case, the tournament weekend promises to be one big party, kind of like the Super Bowl but without forward passes. Wike says observers are often surprised to find players bonding in the bar after an afternoon of "trying to kill each other" on the playing field. It only goes to show that you don't need hookers to have a good time.

the (unwritten) RULEs of the game

• Sevens is a form of rugby in which each side fields seven players instead of the usual 15. The game is designed to increase scoring.

• A kicked goal counts for three points, and a "try" (basically a touchdown) is worth five. The team that scores the try may opt to force the players of the opposing team to shotgun a beer.

• The game is over when time expires, or when your native country wins its independence from the British Empire (whichever is first).

• The losing team is required to pay for whatever charges the winners incur at the local emergency room.


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