Local Rugby club earns national respect

It's not exactly the type of place one would expect to find a group of engineers, attorneys or bankers.

But at Gretna Park, every Tuesday and Thursday, that group of guys trade their suits and ties for cleats and jerseys and hit the practice field.

They are the players of the New Orleans Rugby Club.

"Guys from all different backgrounds come together, "said Jeff Reuther, an engineer. "We got some construction workers, young professionals, all throughout that spectrum. It's a neat group of guys that come together and have that common bond."

But this isn't something they do for fun, they do it to win.

When they competed in Division III, they won two national championships. This past year, they stepped up to the highest level of competition in Division I and advanced to the National Tournament in Colorado. There, despite not getting much respect from their opponents, they finished in third place.

"We didn't have a lot of credit going into the tournament," said Adam Ducoing, a local physical therapy student. "The playoffs started in the round of 32 and if you pull up all the sheets of all the games leading into it, it was always 'New Orleans underdog. New Orleans shocks the world.' We kept stealing games apparently until we got in the semifinals."

As a whole, the sport of rugby is gaining popularity on high school and college campuses around the country, but it is still widely viewed as an international sport.

That's what makes the NORC's accomplishments that much more unique. Not only is most of the team American, just about all of them are New Orleans natives as well.

"We have 12 of our starting 15 players all came up through the high school program in
New Orleans," said Jarrett Falcon, a local attorney. "That's very unique to a rugby program in the United States because most programs import guys from all over the world; they have a player who is in town for a month or two. We do pick up those guys are here or there but our corps has been from New Orleans and that's allowed us to have success."