There’s more to SBC than great beer and great food. A lot more. In fact, you could argue that SBC’s history is just as deeply rooted in cycling and rugby as it is in that pint of Paul’s Pale Ale you’re drinking. We love our outdoor sports here, which is why Springfield Brewing Company started sponsoring the Springfield Rugby Football Club back in the ’90s. Some of our owners and Mugclubbers spent years on the field, and we still have staff at SBC who play for our homegrown club, including manager and bartender Sam Taggart who joined the SBC family in 2014.
While these fast-paced, collision-filled games might seem brutal compared to the padded combat of American football, rugby is surprisingly safe. Of course, we say that after just having won a home game against the UCM Mules where one of our guys suffered a compound fracture. It was gruesome, but as Sam will tell you, injuries like that don’t happen all that often.
That’s why a lot of people argue rugby is actually safer than football despite all the bone breaking collisions you hear about. With no helmets and no padding, this sport can look barbaric at times as players smash into each other, but if you watch closely, you’ll notice a major difference between the tackling style in rugby vs. its American counterpart. Instead of leading with the head and driving full-force into the opposing player’s upper body, rugby tackles are more akin to a wrestling move.
As more fans turn out to watch the Springfield’s men and women’s team compete, we decided it was time to have Sam give us more insight into this ancient sport as it picks up steam here in the Ozarks.
SBC: Hey Sam, congrats on the big win last week. So fill us in. When did you start playing rugby?
Sam Taggart: I started playing for the Springfield Rugby Football Club in 2008, but long before that, one of my old childhood friends had played since he was 14, and he tried to get me to play in high school. I thought now way. This is for giant men with missing teeth, but then I tried it and loved it.
SBC: Can you explain the club’s mascot to us?
Sam Taggart: People call us the Mudpuppies. That’s our logo—It’s a small little salamander. It’s really terrifying. I think back in the day SMS had a rugby team started by Scoop Thornton—He’s a Mugclubber here. He and some other guys started the SMS club, and that transitioned to the Springfield Rugby Football Club. Story goes they brought their kit bags in giant pickle buckets, so in case it was muddy they could sit on the buckets. Those buckets still smell like pickles. We have actual bags now.
SBC: Talk to us about tackling. It looks so brutal out on the field, but it’s supposed to be safer than what you see in American football.
Sam Taggart: It’s a lot like wrestling. You change the angle and put your head to the side, which is why it’s safer. Then you aim for around the knees and hips instead of the upper chest like in football. You don’t see those big collisions as often. It’s more like a grab and a wrestle to the ground instead of just hitting and hoping they fall over.
SBC: But without pads, it still looks like it hurts! What are some of the worst injuries you’ve seen?
Sam Taggart: It doesn’t happen that often, but I’ve seen one guy break his neck and one broken rib. I’ve played for eight years and seen only two bad injuries. Other than that, I broke a wrist and have seen broken fingers and a nose or two, but those are common injuries in any sport.
SBC: Do you think rugby is getting more popular in the Ozarks?
Sam Taggart: It’s gaining momentum here. Springfield has one men’s club, and we just started a women’s and a youth club. Now we travel to Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois and all over Missouri.
SBC: What advice would you give someone who has never watched a game before?
Sam Taggart: It’s a pretty fast-paced game. Just find someone who knows the game, and introduce yourself. They’ll tell you what’s going on. There are some strange rules, which means there’s always something going on and something for fans to cheer or boo at.
SBC: We’re thrilled to have the women’s team, the Queen City Chaos, for the first time this year.
Sam Taggart: Oh yeah! I’m super-excited about the women’s team. I think it’s a big advancement for our club. We tried do this about four years ago but couldn’t get more than eight women players. You need at least 15 people, so to see what the team is doing now is really great. They just won their first game against St. Cloud State early this month.
SBC: What are some of your highlights from the last eight years with the team?
Sam Taggart: I’ve gotten to travel the world because of rugby.
SBC: Favorite place?
Sam Taggart: Australia was the best so far without a doubt. I went to Grafton, Australia. The full name is Grafton, New South Wales, Australia. They’re 30 minutes from the beach, and I got to drive on the left side of the road, and met lots of really cool people. Hopefully next year I’ll do the same thing in Wales for six months.
SBC: How did you end up in Australia?
Sam Taggart: I went to play rugby with a team. Three guys from Grafton found our club somehow online and sent us a message. We invited them to come play with us and found them housing and jobs for three months.They loved it and extended the invite to us, so I went over there to play for six months. Now I try to get all these other American guys to go over there. It’s life changing.
SBC: How was the wildlife over there? Did you box with any kangaroos?
Sam Taggart: I saw lots of kangaroos, and once I saw a koala scuttle across the road.They’re really not very common. They’re actually really mean.
To learn more about Springfield Rugby Football Club and the Queen City Chaos, visit Springfieldrugby.com. Better yet, come watch the teams compete at The Pitch during home games when SBC beer is on tap, and all proceeds benefit the teams.
Come cheer on the Mudpuppies April 30 as they take on the St. Louis Ramblers.