Three dozen rugby teams recently took to the Polo Fields for the third annual Hotlanta 7s Tournament.
Saturday’s event, organized by two Atlanta rugby teams, attracted men’s and women’s club, college and premier teams from across the Southeastern U.S, said Candace Hall, treasurer of the Atlanta Harlequins.
The Harlequins, a women’s team, partners with the men’s Old White Rugby for the bracket-style tournament.
Teams at the event compete in “7s,” a shorter version of the game with seven-minute halves and seven players on each side, Hall said.
A regular game would include 15 players per side and 80 minutes of play.
The Polo Fields was selected as home to the tournament because a member of Old White Rugby lives nearby, Hall said.
She said interest in the sport is growing in the South, and Hall suspects it’s the players’ contact in the field that grabbed the attention of a football-dominated area.
Players tackle each other without pads and without stopping play as they run and pass the ball to teammates.
Teams score the most points by crossing the opposite team’s goal line with the oblong-shaped ball.
Eric Pedersen of the North Atlanta Rugby Club said tackling in the sport is “more controlled” than in football because the play doesn’t stop.
He does keep a “scrum cap” on his head to guard against injuries.
Pedersen said he played baseball in college, but joined a rugby team after attending one of their parties.
The social atmosphere of the game is a big part of its culture, Hall said.
“There’s no other sport where you kill each other on the field and then you have a party together,” she said.
Lauren Waltz of the Harlequins said many of the players involved in the club or premier levels started playing in college.
The tournament in Forsyth County provides a place for college teams to play, but it also aims to “get the word out about rugby,” Waltz said.