Written by Jacy Meyer
It looks like a combination of American football, soccer and perhaps wrestling. Passing, kicking, tackling, grabbing all with little to no protection is one way to describe rugby. Last summer´s Rugby World Cup played in France, saw unexpected South Africa hoist the cup and led to a surge of interest in the sport. We aren´t going to get into a “union vs. league” discussion here – but the Rugby League World Cup is this year in Australia.
For newbies to the sport here´s a quick explanation of “union vs. league” kindly provided by Andrew Fairhurst. He´s the development officer for the Czech Rugby League (www.czechrugbyleague.com.) He says until 1895, there was only one “rugby” and basically class lines divided the sport. Players in the northern part of England couldn´t afford to take a day off work to play (Sunday was reserved for God) while in the richer south it wasn´t a problem. In order to keep the game alive in the north, clubs offered to pay their players so they could afford to take a day off work. This was unholy and shocking to clubs in the south – hence the spilt. The northern clubs became professional and formed Rugby League, while the southern clubs remained amateur with their Rugby Union. The two bodies continued to develop and have their own rules and governing heads. The migration of English folks to Australia means League is more popular down under. Rugby Union finally became officially professional in 1995.
Czech rugby fans have nothing to worry about – the sport is alive and well here with the country boasting an impressive 17 union teams. Seven of those 17 teams are Prague based. RC Praga Praha (www.praga.rugby.cz) plays in Vysočany; RC Říčany (www.ricany.rugby.cz) is out in Říčany; And like all Czech sports, there´s a RC Slavia and RC Sparta as well. RC Sparta Praha (www.sparta.rugby.cz) plays in Prague 9 – Podvinný mlýn. RC Slavia Praha (www.slavia.rugby.cz) plays on a new field out in Vršovice.
The Prague Barbarians Rugby Club became part of RC Slavia last year, as the third team on a social basis. The Barbarians have been around for 15 years and was originally a mainly expat team, playing for fun. They aren´t too bad however; playing friendly’s against Czech teams, and for a time, even in the Czech 2nd division. Their home base is The Lions British Bar and contact with them can be made at email@example.com. RC Tatra Smíchov (www.tatrasmichov.com) is a comparably newer team, being formed in 1958. They play at the rugby stadium in Smíchov. RC Petrovice (www.petrovice.rugby.cz) plays in Petrovice, Prague 10. And to prove how historic Czech rugby is; the country even has a member in the European Golden Oldies Rugby association: Old Boys Praha (www.oldboys.rugby.cz.)
As always when looking for info in this country, tack a .cz on to the end of whatever you are looking for and chances are good you´ll end up with a winner. www.rugby.cz should be your first stop; however the Czech pages have much more information than the English ones. There´s also www.rugbyunion.cz with essentially no information in English, despite the little British flag indicating English pages. However, Fairhurst´s www.czechrugbyleague.com is a good resource. This is the site for the Czech Rugby League Association which competes in Rugby League European Federation games. They just formed in 2006 so are still in the development stage, but have lots of exciting stuff planned. Fairhurst says currently there are no club teams in Prague yet; they´ve started with a junior team, the Beroun Black Panthers. They do have a large focus on junior rugby so if you have a burgeoning player at home they may be a good resource. Their Czech team is a mix of random players from all over. Fairhurst says their season runs from April to June and they´ll have an international match in July/August. The international match-up this year should be a good one – the European Shield will pit the Czech Republic, Italy and Germany sides together for one home and one away fixture each. The Italians will come to town on July 12, while the Czechs will trek to Germany August 2. More info can be found at www.rlef.eu.com. Fairhurst also recommends the European Nations Cup u18 tournament being held here September 1-6; games will be played in Beroun.
The Czech Republic does have a national team (www.rugbyunion.cz,) a member of the International Rugby Board (www.irb.com) and ranked 35th out of 95 unions. If you feel like a rugby road trip, head to Romania this June when the IRB Nations Cup will be played in Bucharest. The Czech Republic isn´t involved, but you can see a round robin of games on June 11, 15 and 20.
If you´d like to play and aren´t sure where to start – visit www.canza.cz. There´s a posting with information on a touch rugby game that is played weekly, seemingly year round. Fairhurst also invites people to contact them (firstname.lastname@example.org.) He says they are looking for new players from u16 up to seniors; as well as match officials and coaches. Also, ARC Iuridica Praha (the only Academic rugby club in the Czech Republic) has an open invitation to players on its website, www.iuridica.wz.cz. They play outside of Prague in Chrášťany. Another good information source is the fabulous www.expats.cz. A recent posting announced the beginning of kid´s rugby practices at the International School of Prague.