Rugby: kind of a big deal

Wayne hosts Battle on the Nebraska Prairie this weekend, the third-largest tournament in the U.S.


Richard Rhoden

Wayne State will host its home opener, the Battle on the Nebraska Prairie Tournament, this weekend. Over 80 teams will file into Wayne, America and look forward to playing on various playing fields around town. This will be the third largest rugby tournament in the U.S., bringing in over 1,800 visitors from all over the United States and Canada

Trevor Urkoski, Staff Writer

Wayne America will be transformed into a rugby mecca this weekend when over 80 teams converge onto various playing fields around town.

This will be the third largest rugby tournament in the U.S. bringing in over 1,800 visitors from all over the United States and Canada.

The tournament will be featuring teams from Michigan State, Colorado University, Eastern Washington, Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, New Mexico High Lands and full varsity program from Missouri’s Lindenwood University. Other teams in the past have included West Virginia and Notre Dame.

The success of the tournament has brought international interest, including two staff members from Wales. They are a part of a Heineken Cup D-1 team that is strongly considering coming to Wayne next spring for the tournament.

If they like what they see at the tournament, they will bring professional scouts from teams within their league to offer contracts to the top ruggers. They will also bring their own team to participate in the tournament during a two-week stay in the U.S.

“I personally assured them the tournament is going to run smooth as silk and I am confident they will be amazed,” head coach Darrin Barner said.

ESPN magazine has even shown interest in possibly covering a story next year during rugby weekend in Wayne.

Tournament weekend has proven to be one of the top money makers for the city of Wayne over a 48-hour period.

Dr. Eric Thompson of the University of Nebraska did a full study in 2012 and estimated that just over $400,000 rolls into the state from the event. Thompson assures this number will be reached and estimates it could be 10-13 percent higher.

Almost 99 percent of the people in town that weekend are from out of state or Canada. Some teams will be arriving Thursday and teams like Eastern Washington will depart Monday from Wayne.

The rugby field was hit hard by the tornado in October, but everything is still running as planned.

“All the fields are playable, there is some turf ripped up a little, but it will be fine to play on,” Barner said.

Over the last 14 years, the winner of the Wayne tournament went on to win the national championship.

Spectators will see several teams ranked in the top 10 of women and men’s competition.

The talent level is so high at this tournament that U.S. rugby scouts will be on hand. They will be scavenging for players to compete on international level teams or on the U.S. rugby team.

The referees in this tournament are no slouches. The refs will be getting evaluated and graded on their own performances. With a good evaluation they can move up to D-1 college games or even ref at the international level.

Referees from Texas, California, New Jersey and Canada have all been part of the games in Wayne.

The WSC men will be taking part in the seven-on-seven national qualifier. The winner of the Wayne tournament will get an automatic birth to Philadelphia in June for the seven-on-seven national championships. The top eight teams will be a part of a national championship that has been televised on NBC over the last three years.

“The guys are 8-1 this spring and have a chance of doing well this weekend,” Barner said.

Future events are also in the plans for the Wayne Rugby Park if improvements are made from the damage of the tornado. Wayne could take part in hosting a rotation-form, 30-team high school national championship, as well as college regionals along with tournaments for city league teams.

Saturday night will be topped off with a hair/glam metal band, 3D In Your Face, who will bring in over $100,000 in lights and stage equipment. Lasers, smoke cannons, concussion air, fog machines and songs such as “Pour Some Sugar On Me” will be found at Riley’s.

Tickets for this event cost $20 at the door. However, tickets can be purchased for a reduced price of $3 at the rugby field between 2-5 p.m. on Saturday. Doors at Riley’s open at 8:30 p.m. for the annual toga party.

Wearing a toga is required in this themed event, so grab a bed sheet and get on YouTube for instructions on creating your toga.