My Little Corner of the Scrum
by Wes Clark
Hello; let me introduce myself. My name is Wes Clark, and I play rugby.
Let me qualify that. I've been playing rugby since I discovered Fox Sports World's "Championship Rugby" on TV last year. Other than in the high school stuff I was compelled to do - football, baseball, basketball - I have never played a team sport until rugby came along for me, at age 42. (When I was in high school I was a chess club geek. A kind lady suggests that then I was merely experiencing combat on a more cerebral plane.)
I'm an American; more specifically, a Virginian. (Although I was raised in Los Angeles.) This means I play rugby union, not rugby league, which is unknown here. One of these days I plan to visit the U.K. and see what rugby league is all about.
The position I play - the only position I play - is lock, also called second row. I'm of Homeric proportions (6'4" and 250 pounds), so physically I'm suited for it. I'm also mentally suited for it: for me, the scrum defines rugby more than anything else save for the Webb Ellisian action of running with the ball - which I don't get to do very often. The scrum is unique, and I am content to be in "the engine room." The best thing in rugby for me is the triumphant feeling I get when we're able to make the opposition pack take backwards steps, either in a scrum or a maul. (When you think about it, a maul is just a scrum without the formalities.) After all, a successful scrum fulfills item two of Conan the Barbarian's What-is-best-in-Life: "Crush your enemies, drive them before you, hear the lamentations of the women!"
I'd say the best thing in rugby is making a try, but I haven't made one of those yet. I'll report when I do.
My all-time greatest rugby desire is to play prop - the hands-down best position in rugby. (I'll explain this view in a future article.) But that probably won't happen, for reasons I'll explain in the same future article.
I'm proud to play rugby with the two-fisted toughs of the Western Suburbs Rugby Football Club of Merrifield, Virginia. They taught me how to play. The good aspects of my play I owe to them; the bad stuff is my doing. I currently serve as a club secretary and webmaster; you can see my HTML handiwork at http://www.rugbyfootball.com. (Pretty cool that we were able to get that URL, huh?) My rugby skills aren't likely to instill abject terror in younger, faster and stronger players, but I do want to put together the best club web site on the Internet. But don't take my word for it - see for yourself.
Western Suburbs is a Division II club, which, for you non-U.S. readers, means that while we are competitive with other clubs we have a social side as well. In other words, we're not as intense and committed as Division I clubs, and bigger and somewhat better organized than Division III clubs. I remember reading this statement by a player on a web site: "The only difference between the rugby you play and the U.S. Eagles is commitment." That applies to my club and your club as well.
Suburbs is part of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union, which encompasses Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and North Carolina. But, owing to the nature of rugby in the "sleeping giant" U.S., don't take this to mean that we're a wealthy club, or that players here get paid to play rugby. (This is for the benefit of non-U.S. players and coaches who contact us looking for paid positions as players and coaches.) The opposite is true - we pay to play. There are few opportunities to make a living at rugby in the U.S., where the game is still essentially amateur.
I mention this to not only point out that the purer rugby we play here in the States is closer to the game's noble, altruistic roots, but to help mitigate the recent 106-8 drubbing we took at the hands of the professional English. They were probably kinder when they burned the White House in 1814.
Given the major lack of in-depth knowledge I have admitted to above, Brian Reimer, the proprietor of this web site, still wants me to write a monthly rugby article. Obviously, "how-to's" are out of the question. But future topics will include Rugby as Warfare, Men Behaving Badly, Props Rool, The Genius of the English Schoolboy, Rugby Movies, Famous Ruggers, Sevens: Who Needs It? and Electrical Tape as a Fashion Statement. Thanks for listening.
More of Wes Clark's gormless mental meanderings can be found on his rugby web site, "the Rugby Reader's Review."