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Youth Rugby rising in Billings

Posted at 3:59 PM, May 20, 2024

BILLINGS — Rugby has finally made its way to Billings, but not without a little help from friends in Gallatin County.

“His name is JD Stevenson, he asked if anyone would be interested in starting a league here," Yellowstone Mavericks coach Angelo Ruffato told MTN Sports. "He kind of supported us with it. He gave us all the uniforms and helped us out to make it easy for us to get going."

Billings features two youth rugby teams, U14 and U12, and is hoping the sport's continued growth will progress to the high school level.

“Oh, yeah. I really want to play when I get in high school. I hope it gets bigger," Nui Rawai-Couch said.

“They're getting their friends out here a little bit more. In the last couple weeks we've gotten three or four new kids. As they love it more it's just going to keep growing and growing," Ruffato said.

Learning a new sport doesn’t come without growing pains, but there are enough similarities, including the physicality, to football that it’s not entirely foreign.

“How I explain it to them — it's kind of silly — when you're playing a tackle football game when you're younger with your friends, if you want to tackle someone hard, you're going to feel it just as much as they are," Ruffato said. "We preach over and over again proper technique: keep your hands in tight, squat down cheek to cheek, head up. Once they get that down they can protect themselves."

The Mavericks wrapped up their season with the state tournament this weekend as they look forward to seeing gugby continue its ascension.