Rugby, a game associated with the British Empire, is not for everyone. The players often leave a match bloodied and battered. It's like football without the gear. No helmet, no padding, only the prospect of imminent injury. Bottom line: I'm guessing they can't get a minyan. What Jewish mother would risk her son's chances at medical school? Rugby is for those who think nothing of mounting muscular bodies in the mud. I don't mean it like it sounds.

Just so we're all clear: Rugby is a continuous game whereby two teams carry, pass, kick and ground the ball to score as many points as possible. It also employs specific terms, like "maul" and "ruck." Both are positions that prevent play stoppage, but to an outsider, say anyone who views violent contact as a no-go, it's an education.

Indeed, rugby has a long -- and for fans -- illustrious history. (And for the past 34 years, it's apparently been well-served in the U.S. by Rugby magazine.) The game was born in 1823, when a 16-year-old boy caught the ball during a soccer match at the Rugby School in England and ran to his opponent's goal line. Since then, the rugby blue has been a big deal at Cambridge and Oxford. True, most teams don't routinely round up a theater party to see a revival of "South Pacific." They have their own way of savoring victory -- or defeat. According to a Facebook list started by university ruggers in Michigan, "It's the only sport where you can beat the hell out of people and an hour later drink until you're stupid with them." Every parent's dream.

Rugby's mission, however, is to "entertain, educate and enlighten its 50,000 readers." It begins with action-packed photos that prove the boys of rugby don't stint on gym time. These modern-day Adonises have pinup written all over them. I haven't seen definition like this since Michelangelo picked up a paintbrush. Aside from the visual, there is the latest news, reviews of rugby clothing and equipment, nutrition and training tips. There are also ways to improve play and a department called "Women's Pitch" that features players and teams from high school to post-college clubs.

The mag recently underwent a makeover and judging from the letters in the "Ball's Out" section, the format is a hit. So is the sport, which appears to be something of a religion among adherents. The 2007 Rugby World Cup in Paris drew a 2.3 million attendance and a worldwide TV audience of 4 billion. USA Rugby fields nine national teams and conducts 21 national championships each year. To stay on pitch, players and fans rely on Rugby to deliver the goods.

This just in! The ad on page 24, for the 18th World Maccabiah Games in Israel, is looking for Jewish rugby players! To use an English expression: I'm gobsmacked. The world roughs us up. We need to do it to each other? On reflection, perhaps it's more about the Maori concept of whakapapa, which Kevin Roberts, the USA Rugby Board chairman, cites to explain rugby's culture bond.

For players, it's clearly more than a game. In the brotherhood of blood sports, rugby is king.


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