We talked to Leonardo Álvarez, head coach of the Franco Costarricense Rugby Club about this sport that has been developing little by little in the country.

What is rugby and how is it played?

Rugby is a contact sport played on a field similar in size to a soccer field. It is played between 2 teams of 15 players each. As for the objective: the teams compete for the position of an oval ball that has to be transported from one end of the field to the other. Once the team succeeds in transporting the ball to one end, a touchdown must be made by placing the ball with the hands on the ground.

What are the differences between rugby and American football?

There are many differences between these two sports. In rugby, the field is shorter and the game is played in two 40-minute halves. As for American football, the number of players is smaller, with 11 players on the field and the playing time consists of 4 halves of 15 minutes. Another aspect that differentiates it is that rugby is a sport with a lot of technique similar to judo in order to protect the athlete, because the only protection is a mouth guard; in American football a plastic armor is worn. Also, the age of rugby players can be up to 50 years old while in American football it is up to 30 years old.

What does rugby teach you?

Rugby is a tough sport, the first thing it teaches is to work as a team because the roughness of the sport makes it impossible for one person alone to achieve the goal. It is based on the values of teamwork, solidarity, companionship, friendship and brotherhood, which are used to lead a healthy life. The thing about rugby is that I can’t do it alone, I need my teammates. It is with the sum of the 15 that the final goal is reached.

What does it take to play rugby?

Wanting to play. You don’t need to be in exceptional physical condition. Rugby is designed to be suitable for everyone. Each person, depending on their abilities and physical condition, can bring some benefit to the team. Everyone brings what they can and what they have.

How does rugby affect the brain?

It is a contact sport. There is a risk of receiving a blow to the head and the damage caused depends on the blow received. From a safety point of view, there are regulations that pay attention to blows to the head. If a player hits another player in the head, the player is immediately ejected. This is so that the other players are careful and that there is no contact with the head. There are 5 people on and off the field to give attention [to this], called the concussion protocol.

How does rugby develop in Costa Rica and does it have followers?

Since 2005 there has been a Costa Rican rugby federation: the Costa Rican Rugby Federation. It is in charge of the development of this sport. It helps with training, equipment and getting balls, which is more complex in Costa Rica. Through the networks it has created an environment where there are followers and now there is a first division tournament that takes place every year.

Do you see an increase in interest in this sport?

In the last 3 years, there has been a growth measured by the number of people participating in the sport.

How much support do you have from the State?

Through ICODER and with the Federation there has been a rapprochement. The help is little but it does exist, for example with access to fields, sponsorships, etc. All this is managed by the federation. That small collaboration has made it develop a little more.

Author: Mónica Gallardo in collaboration with Leonardo Álvarez for Sensorial Sunsets