Clayton rugby club adjusting to new rules following 9-month hiatus

Sports

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s been a long nine months for the Clayton rugby program. The pandemic caused a pause in play. A long pause but now they’re back at it.

Rugby is a contact sport and to survive during these times, change was inevitable.

“We took the coronavirus situation very seriously,” said Clayton rugby coach Ryan Johns. “We’re blessed to have the opportunity to play a sport that allows for a lot of contact. A lot of the rules changed and we had to adapt and overcome.”

The biggest change is fewer players. Instead of 15 on a side, each team will field seven players. Rugby scrums now consist of just three players per side, and masks are worn at all times. Players face ejection if not properly masked. The new rules are very restrictive, but no one seems to be complaining.

“This is my senior year and I was really worried that we were not going to have a season at all because that was the official review,” lamented Cullen Cunningham.

“Yes I am surprised we are out here,” admitted Cameren McKinnon. “The masks may suck but I’m going to play regardless.”

The players admit, they can’t wait for the game to get back to normal. But in the meantime, the new rules have made for a faster game with more of a reliance on speed and athleticism.

“In 15’s where there’s 15 guys on a side it’s much more spread in,” explained Jack Van Graan. “Now this helps with our ball movement, our eye-hand coordination. So there is a bright side to this.”

Last week the Clayton Rugby Club hosted a huge weekend tournament with teams from all over the state, and they did so with no reported positive tests or quarantined individuals.

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