St. Stephen Spartans boys rugby team to play in exhibition league this season

Kate Scott/Courier file Deegan Farrell of the St. Stephen Spartans boys rugby team thwarts a tackle during an exhibition game last season. The Spartans will be playing sevens rugby in an exhibition league this year.

St. Stephen – Fans of the St. Stephen Spartans boys rugby team will be treated to a different style of play this upcoming season.
Due to low numbers, the team will be playing sevens rugby – instead of the normal 15 players on the pitch, the game is played with seven.

Coach Carl Brisley said the rules of the game don’t change, but said the pace will – instead of the usual two 40-minute halves with 15 players, the game will move to seven players, playing two seven-minute halves, with a one-minute break in between.

This means the team will be playing in an exhibition league, and not with the Fundy High Mariners; the usual county rivals.
Other teams in the exhibition league include Carleton North High School, Southern Victoria High School, Woodstock High School, Miramichi Valley High School, École L’Odyssée, JMA Armstrong High School, John Caldwell, and Nackawic Senior High School.

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Brisley said though it’s not yet set in stone, the Spartans may play in a conference with École L’Odyssée and JMA Armstrong.
Despite the change, Brisley said he felt fans will enjoy the change, and the pace, of the game.
“The issue is going to be we have mostly all forwards – 12 of our guys are traditional forwards. There will be less passing, more rucking, and I think that will suit us fairly well. I think we’ll be fairly fast for the size of the guys we’ve got – we’ve just got to make sure we keep the ball in our hands.
“It’s the same premise as before, but it’s a lot more field to cover, so our fitness level and recovery is critical.”

The Spartans began practicing in February, but have yet to practice on the pitch, due to wet field conditions. Brisley said the team is anxious to get outside – the first test will come with Rugbyfest, slated for the weekend of April 21.
The squad is guaranteed five games, and if they do well, they will play in game six and seven.

Brisley said it will be a bit of a mindset change as a coach, he recently bumped into a rugby official who told him sevens “is the way the game is going.”
“If fans come out, I think the people watching it may like it better. It’s gonna be a little better pace – there shouldn’t be as many scrums, or lineouts; it’s a very high tempo game,” Brisley said.

“I think it will even be exciting for those unfamiliar with the game – the 15’s can be a fairly methodical, slow game, and create overlaps, but this will be much faster paced. It will be an exciting game to watch.”