All or nothing: Emmanuel college rugby team edition

Manchester City, the All Blacks…and now Emmanuel Rugby.


There has recently been a trend of different sports teams allowing behind-the-scenes access and letting themselves be documented for a year.

Usually these are teams at the pinnacle of the sport, such as Man City and the All Blacks, and in these documentaries you get to see the revolutionary tactics and training that makes them so successful.

Yet people always moan that professional sport has deviated too far from its original grassroots origins, and these documentaries are an example of this. So, for those people, I offer you, in a series of articles, a different kind of documentary, set away from the soulless glitz and glamour of professional rugby – and set in Division 3, College Rugby.

Here, the biggest challenge is not winning but getting enough people to play (you’ll notice in these articles that a lot of teams are made up of different colleges).

Image may contain: Transportation, Bike, Vehicle, Bicycle, Plant, Grass, Field, Team, Team Sport, Football, Ball, Sports, Soccer, Soccer Ball, Sport, People, Human, Person

A glorious image of me dropping a pass under no pressure.

Your lens into this division will be a team whose training sessions, instead of being dominated by analysis, are mostly touch rugby. A team where the tactics, rather than being shaped on heavy research and the opposition, is mainly shaped on whether we have enough players, and fitting those players into a position regardless of whether they played there before. This is proper rugby. This is college rugby. This is Emma rugby.

Week 1:

Image may contain: Clothing, Shorts, Apparel, Crowd, Field, Sports, Sport, Outdoors, Yard, Nature, People, Plant, Grass, Human, Person

Emma's team for the first week.

The eagle-eyed readers among you will have noticed that in the team picture above there are only 13 men. They say you need 15 men to play rugby. Well, you don’t. That’s just what the conservatives want you to think. With the modern game being faster and fitter, having too many, or even the right amount of players can cluster the pitch.

This less is more attitude is embedded into Emma rugby, as shown by the fact that we only have 16 shirts. In fact, we almost had 12, with someone saying they couldn't make it as we were about to set off. It took some…inspiring words from the captain to make him reconsider his availability.

Unfortunately, this is an attitude that's also present in other teams, who take things to the extreme by having so few players that games were being forfeited. In an attempt to stop this, the league format was altered this year so that, instead of playing two halves of 40 minutes against one team, you play two teams for a half each, with the idea being that the team not playing can lend players. Which was always necessary.

So, with the new format in place, our first games were against Trinity & Christs, and Magdalene. With 13 players, you would hope that in our first game, Magdalene, who weren’t playing, would give us two players, right? Well…

Since they were playing later, they weren’t there. Luckily one player arrived early and joined in, however that’s still only 14 players, and when the rest arrived, he went off to warm up with them. So the plan about getting players didn’t exactly work. But hey, we tried.

Image may contain: Field, Football, Team, Sport, Sports, Team Sport, People, Person, Human

We like to make the most of our forwards at Emma, as shown by the stance of me, a back.

No matter. We're used to playing with fewer men at Emma, and we actually won our first game. In the second game, Magdalene were nice enough to play with the same number of men, but only after they had scored enough tries to ensure that they would win.

Image may contain: People, Huddle, Crowd, Person, Human

An Emma tradition done at the end of every result. Some say this is more tiring than the match. Well it's definitely more tactical, as you choose the lightest person to support.

In the end, each team won a game and lost a game. This seemed to tell us less about the quality of the teams and more about fitness levels (or lack thereof), as the team that had just played coincidentally always lost.

Truly a testament to our ungodly stamina.

Photos: Lloyd Morgan – Instagram