RugbyFest is back for 2022

Matthew Daigle | Telegraph-Journal
February 20, 2022
At its peak, RugbyFest hosted as many as 50 schools from across the Maritimes as well as schools as far away as Ontario and Alberta. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, RugbyFest is making its return for 2022, hosted by Rothesay Netherwood School.

While out-of-province schools won’t be attending this year, RNS boys’ rugby coach Jamie Gray said they’ll have 24-30 schools participating, all from New Brunswick. He said the amount of schools that participate is a big change from when RugbyFest first began decades earlier.

“When RugbyFest started back in the late 80s, early 90s, it was only New Brunswick teams, there were only eight teams that would come,” said Gray. “Then it slowly expanded and expanded and expanded to the pointe where we had like 50 teams, it was really cool.”

Gray said this year’s tournament will take place from April 22-24 where both boys’ and girls’ teams will be playing 15s and sevens games. This is a change of pace as is 2020, Gray said rugby was shut down all together due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Gray said there were some mixed tournaments where the boys played 10s contact instead of regular 15s, while the girls played non-contact at the school. He said there were some rule changes to follow COVID-19 guidelines, including no scrums.

“So instead of having lineouts in scrums, it was like a tap and go kind of like a quick penalty type of thing,” said Gray. “As of now, everything is supposed to be regular 15s and sevens, regular gameplay.”

Gray said RugbyFest may be different for some of the students who have only played with the COVID-19 rules in place. Along with Gray, the Telegraph-Journal sat down with six RNS rugby players.

Rhett Ellis is in the 12th grade, is a Rothesay native and has been attending RNS since the 6th grade. He said as a local, he’s witnessed multiple RugbyFests in the past and said it’s a big part of the RNS experience.

“When somebody asks you where you go and you say RNS, well they then ask you about RugbyFest,” said Ellis. “Just having that back in the schedule and calendar, just seeing that, is a little bit of normalcy.”

Megan Leung is from Vancouver and is in the 11th grade and is excited to have RugbyFest back for 2022. She said it’s not just about the sport, but also bringing people together as a community.

“I have friends from all over the world that have been at RNS, and RugbyFest is an event that kind of brings all the students from all around the world back together,” said Leung. “Bonding over sport, that is really important to all of us as well kind of getting the opportunity to play is just great.”

An experienced and competitive player, 12th grader Malcolm Black is from Fredericton and has been a member of the provincial U-18 rugby team. Some players only discovered the sport a few years prior like 12th grader Dewey Du who came to RNS from China a few years prior as an international student. Kirsty Dunn is in her second year at RNS as a 12th grader born in England and growing up in Qatar.

Jordan Chalk is from a small town in Newfoundland, growing up mostly playing hockey and not playing rugby until she came to RNS.

“I have no idea what it was or how to play,” said Chaulk. “Everybody was just really accepting, and it was really fun to learn a new sport and gain some knowledge on something I hadn’t done before.”