Rugby: Crouch, bind, set!

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Photograph courtesy of BBRFC Celtic

Catherine Feore meets the president of one of Brussels most popular sports clubs.

The Rugby World Cup has put the game of rugby in the spotlight – we met with Deirdre Furlong, president of BBRFC Celtic, to find out a bit more about the game. 

People who play rugby say that it is much more than a game. Rugby prides itself in having a unique ethos. The World Rugby Playing Charter lists integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect as the defining characteristics of the game. 

This is echoed by Deirdre: “The rugby skills, physical fitness, and responsibilities of each position of playing can be taught, but what is really important in rugby are the values of the sport which we also try to instill in the players and throughout our club and these are – in my opinion –  equally important as the physical skills. For example, a strong sense of team-work, commitment, integrity through honesty and fair play and mutual respect. I would also say resilience is an important element to be able to stay focused and handle pressure. These values do not just remain on the pitch, but extend beyond into players’ daily lives.” 

“No matter your shape or size, there is a position for you on a rugby team”

Deirdre says: “Everyone can learn how to play rugby and one of the things I love most about the sport is that no matter your shape or size, there is a position for you on a rugby team. I’m a small person (157 cm) and weigh around 52 kilos. 

“Touch rugby is also an important part of our club and is a very popular sport, which men and women can play together. It is a very fast paced, skillful sport without the physical intensity of tackling, or scrums. More and more clubs are setting up touch rugby teams and there is now also a competitive league in Belgium. So this can be a wonderful alternative to Rugby 15s.” 

BBRFC Celtic is a large club with over 400 members. A little more than 50% are Belgian and the last time they counted, they found they had members from more than 29 nationalities: “We are a local international club.” 

When I was growing up not many women played, but Deirdre says that is definitely changing: “When I started playing back in 2006 there was only one division for women, now there are two. In Belgium, there is a project under way called Power Girls play Rugby 2022-2025, set up by the Belgium rugby federation in collaboration with the Flemish and Francophone rugby governing bodies to help women’s rugby grow in Belgium and provide a full pathway from youth school to adult women’s rugby.” 

The rules 

I asked Deirdre for a brief overview of the rules: “The objective like any team sport is to score points by carrying or kicking the ball over the opposing team’s try line and grounding it (a try) or kicking the ball through the goalposts (conversion, penalty, drop goal). 

“The team’s 15 players are divided into forwards (larger, more physical players) and backs (more agile, speedy players) and each have their own specific roles to play. The ball must absolutely be passed backwards and players can tackle their opponents to stop them advancing, but this must be done legally and referees are very strict on this. The game involves set pieces: scrums and line-outs, which are awarded after infractions or out of bound play. 

For a scrum the referee gives the instruction: ‘crouch, bind and set’ and the full scrum of each team engages and pushes against each other. 

Beyond the basics, Deirdre acknowledges that some of the laws are more complicated, but I get the feeling that at BBRFC Celtic you’re in safe hands, so you can learn as you go.

Deirdre confirms that rugby is a game that is growing in popularity in Belgium: “There are many rugby clubs in Belgium, if I’m not mistaken approximately 60. There are many competitions and leagues running every season, which is governed by the Belgian Rugby Union and all clubs are affiliated to either the Flemish or the Francophone rugby organisations.

“Our U6 to U12 teams participate in tournaments at different clubs throughout the season, our U14, U16 and U18s participate in competitive leagues, our senior men and women’s teams compete in D3 and D1 respectively and our touch rugby team as I said also compete in the Touch rugby league.”

Safety 

There have been some concerns voiced about injuries over the years. Deirdre says player safety is a top priority in the club and they have taken several measures to minimize the risk of injuries. The coaching, refereeing, protective gear and commitments to age-appropriate games to ensure the safety of younger players have been carefully put in place to support this objective: “While rugby is a physical sport, efforts are continually made to reduce the risk of injuries and ensure the well-being of players.” 

“Safety is a top priority in the club and they have taken several measures to minimize the risk of injuries”

The club is always looking for new players. Deirdre’s confident that if you come along and give it a try – no pun intended – you will not be disappointed: “Playing rugby can be a fantastic experience, offering physical fitness, life-long friendships, and the thrill of competition. I would say that rugby goes beyond being just a sport, it is a family, a community, a tribe.”

“Rugby goes beyond being just a sport, it is a family, a community, a tribe”

Finally, I asked which team she thinks will win the World Cup. The answer is simple and confident: “Ireland”. After last night’s performance against South Africa, the reigning World Cup champions, she might not be wrong!

www.bbrfcceltic.eu