Active Interns: Rugby

In this edition of the Active Interns I had the opportunity to try out rugby with the Calgary Saints Rugby Club. In a sport built for the fast and gritty, I survived and you can too as rugby is a ton of fun and a great sport, everyone should try out!

Not familiar with rugby overall? Check out the video below for an intro to the sport!

About Rugby and Different types of Rugby

Rugby football started in about 1845 at the Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, although forms of football in which the ball was carried and tossed date to medieval times. Rugby split into two sports in 1895, when twenty-one clubs split from the Rugby Football Union to form the Northern Rugby Football Union, renamed the Rugby Football League in 1922, in the George Hotel, Huddersfield. Over broken-time payments to players who took time off work to play the sport, thus making rugby league the first code to turn professional and pay players (Wikipedia, Rugby Football). There are three different types of rugby: Union, League and 7s.



Union is played in teams of two with 15 players on each. Games are comprised of two 40 minute halves where the teams attempt accumulate the most points in the allotted time. Rugby union is played between two teams – the one that scores more points wins the game. Points can be scored in several ways: a try, scored by grounding the ball in the in-goal area (between the goal line and the dead-ball line), is worth 5 points and a subsequent conversion kick scores 2 points; a successful penalty kick or a drop goal each score 3 points.



Rugby league is similar to that of Union with few small variances. The main difference is that in rugby league a player must place the ball between their legs after being tackled and then roll it back with their foot to a team mate. Each team is allowed to do this up to six times per possession of the ball and then must kick the ball away toward the opposition if they have failed to score a try. If the ball goes out of play after such a kick, play restarts with a six player scrum, which is also the method of restart following most minor rules infringements.


Rugby sevens is similar to union however, instead of playing with 15 aside it is played with seven per side during the play. Also instead of games being played over two 40 minute halves, sevens is split into two seven minute halves with a one minute break in between. Rugby sevens is rapidly gaining popularity due to its fast paced play and high impact game play.

Matt and the Saints after practice

Matt and the Saints after practice

My experience with the Calgary Saints Rugby

I was bummed out before the rugby session with the Saints, as all week leading up to the practice I had been doing my research on the sport; however, the night before I picked up the flu. That would not stop me from trying out the sport though. I connected with Zak - a fellow public relations student at Mount Royal University - and we were both excited about the opportunity. Zak is part of the Saints Men’s team that operates for adults, offering those with a wide array of skills to still be active in the sport. Chatting with Zak, he mentioned that most of their club plays for a university, but that some prior to starting with the team had very little experience playing rugby.

The gear required to play rugby is identical to soccer. All that you really need is a pair of cleats and usually a mouth guard. Rugby is a fairly accessible sport for all.

players advancing the ball during the baseball game

players advancing the ball during the baseball game

Practice started with a scrimmage, where I was thrown right into the mix. We split up into teams of 11 each and tried to get as many “tries” as we could. I felt like a chicken with my head cut off as I really had no idea where I was supposed to be running or what position I was meant to play. All the guys were massive and agile while rocketing passes back and forth advancing the ball and I was a lost puppy. However, after a couple more minutes I started to get the hang of some of the little strategies including stacking certain sides of the field with more players and using overlapping runs to confuse the other team. After this 15 minute warm up that was a full practice in itself it was time to get the real practice started.

an overhead toss thrown during the baseball game

an overhead toss thrown during the baseball game

Although it was a rugby practice I was a little confused when he said we would be playing baseball. This game did not involve any gloves and made us focus on all the fundamental skills in rugby. The “batting team,” has to catch a fast rugby pass and then drop kick the ball into the field. After kicking the ball the batter had to run to a cone 20 yards away and back before the other team advanced the ball back to the cone. In rugby, the ball can be passed two ways, either by tossing the ball with a side spiral or else thrown overhead. This can only be done when the ball goes out of play in a regular rugby match. I had the toughest time with figuring out the best way to advance the ball in the game as some of the guys could easily toss the ball 20 yards with perfect spiral. My passes on the other hand were flimsy floaters that barely found the target. The trick to throwing was the way the guys would move their non-dominant hand on the ball before throwing it to add the spiral. This was something that seemed easy but I could tell would take a lot of practice to perfect.

After the game finished up I had the opportunity to chat with Zak about why people should try out rugby and some of the programs the Saints offer! 

Big thanks once again to Zak and the Saints for having me out to try out the sport! Best of luck to the men’s team as they head into their final game of the season!

About the Calgary Saints Rugby Club:


The Calgary Saints pride themselves on creating a strong, welcoming community across our club. Whether you are a retired player looking to get involved in rugby again, a seasoned athlete looking to make a huge impact on the field or a brand new player looking for your first exposure to the game, the Calgary Saints have a place for you.

The Saints have teams for kids as young as four years old, as well as a competitive women’s team and competitive and social men’s teams. We look to continue to build the Saints family by creating a successful atmosphere on the field and a strong social bond off the field.

The Saints offer a variety of introductory programs for boys and girls starting at U7 through U15 as well as Men’s and Women’s teams from U17 - U19.

With that the Active Interns series is all finished now for the summer! I want to thank Sport Calgary for the amazing summer! I definitely was one active intern. To the next student who gets to pick up the series, good luck and have fun! 

Matthew Achtymichuk