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looking for Lincoln athletes

Both boys and girls wanted
By: Jim Linsdau News Messenger Sports Editor
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Rugby has been around longer than soccer, but few could have described how it was played or scored. But like soccer, it’s beginning to catch on in the United States and this area is no exception. Rugby clubs began to form around the country, and before long colleges and universities began forming teams. As former college players returned to Northern California, the popularity of rugby began to grow in Placer County. In 2002, the Sierra Foothills Rugby Club was formed. “I started in college. Most of us probably started in college,” said Paul Kessler, head of the SFRC youth branch started in the Lincoln area. “We send kids to colleges all around the United States. This year we sent four girls with full-ride scholarships back east.” Kessler said SFRC is hoping to attract more athletes, of all ages, to the sport. He said they’re especially looking for girls of high school age to participate. Kessler said college recruiters from around the country come to Northern California looking for potential collegiate players. He said Sierra Foothills Rugby Club, which originated in Penryn, branched out to Rocklin because of the availability of facilities. The local group practices at Whitney Park, and will play at Margaret Azevada Park, both on Wildcat Boulevard in Rocklin. The sport originated at Rugby School in England during the 18th century. As it began to catch on in more contemporary times, the SFRC had to go in search of other facilities to deal with its growth. Kessler said part of the sports appeal is the fact it’s a contact sport. “The kids love it,” Kessler said. “When you introduce it to the little kids you can see why it gets popular; they just love contact.” Contact in rugby is limited and closely regulated. There is tackling, but not like in American football. And blocking is forbidden, as well as undercutting an opponent. Kessler said rugby improves the skills of high school football players because it teaches the proper technique of tackling. Kessler said the goal of rugby is to gain possession of the ball, not necessarily to stop the runner. A tackle cannot be made above the level of the armpits, and a player can’t throw himself at a runner’s knees. There is also no forward passing. The player with the ball can only pass laterally or back. Kessler said tackling is used to slow, or down the runner, so the tackler, or teammate(s), can get the ball. If more than one goes after the ball, it’s called a ruck. Players are taught how to wrap up a runner during a tackle, which is good training for football. Former Placer High School football player Nichols Williams decided to give rugby a try after he graduated. At 19, Williams isn’t sure where rugby could take him, but he’s open to the possibilities. “I though it would be a cool sport,” Williams said of what piqued his interest. “So I came out and saw it was pretty cool. So I started playing.” Williams plays on the varsity squad. The Lincoln/Rocklin branch of the SFRC also formed an adult mens team this year. It’s made up of a lot of former players, and those curious as to what it’s all about. Lincoln resident Dave Faingold and Roseville Police Sergeant Jason Bosworth helped establish the Division III mens team. It started slowly, but quickly began to grow. Faingold said the mens club has attracted individuals with a variety of backgrounds and playing experience. Bosworth added that getting the mens team organized and sanctioned by the Northern California Youth Rugby Association was a big step in the right direction. “It (was) a major accomplishment to provide men’s rugby in Placer County,” said Bosworth. “There has been a void for too long. Anyone can play this game; there is a spot for everyone.” More on rugby next week. Dave Faingold contributed to this story.