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Army meets Navy for 25th time in rugby match

Military matchup will be followed by Seattle Seawolves Major League Rugby match

The 25th annual Army/Navy Rugby match will be held Saturday, May 20 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila. Photo Credit: U.S. Army

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There is a martial spirit to the sport of rugby that makes it appealing to military personnel who value raw physical courage, physical fitness, commitment, teamwork, self-discipline and trust.

"The whole point of rugby is that it is, first and foremost, a state of mind, a spirit," French rugby player Jean Pierre Rives once noted.

Said to have originated at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, in 1832 during a game of football, William Webb Ellis pick up a ball and ran with it.  The first rugby match played in the United States was in 1875 in Boston, MA between McGill and Harvard Universities.

"The game of rugby is unlike other physical sports," began Nick Punimata, a retired CW4 with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the ad hoc Fort Lewis rugby coach.

"It's a game of elegant violence. The beauty of it is when players are offensively focused and supporting the movement of the ball by their teammates, but at the point of collision, the hunters can easily become the hunted as the ball transitions from one team to another to its ultimate destination - the goal line."

This is a concept that military members understand, and at 4:30 p.m. on May 20, Army and Navy rugby teams will meet on the pitch for the 25th time at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila. The Army leads the series 21 wins to three. At 7:30 pm, the Seattle Seawolves will host the Chicago Hounds.

Rugby matches are fast paced with few stoppages and a continuous contest for possession of the ball. There are 15 players per side, and they wear limited padding and protection, and all must be able to run, pass, kick and catch the ball. Likewise, they have to be able to tackle and defend, making each position both offensive and defensive in nature during the two 40-minute halves.

"Rugby is great," former NFL QB and sports commentator Joe Theismann observed. "The players don't wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that."

"The military game will be a curtain raiser for the Seattle Seawolves Major League Rugby match against the Chicago Hounds," said Kevin Flynn, the Seawolves' manager and Director of Rugby for Army Rugby Union.

A former Army rugby coach, Flynn pointed out that the Seattle rugby community has created programs for players to be able to give back to veterans, worked with recovering soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and helped support soldiers who are going through cancer treatment, to name some of the team's outreach to the military.

"We ensure civilian players and these soldiers are connected ... our veterans share stories of how rugby has helped them find a direction and a community after leaving the military," concluded Flynn.

For more information about the match and ticket prices, visit

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