A rugby tournament that honours the life of a former coach happened in Dartmouth on Saturday, just days after the federation that overlooks the sport tried to ban it throughout Nova Scotia high schools.
The Davin Moxsom Rugby Tournament was hosted by the Dartmouth Pigdogs RFC in Burnside.
The tournament is in support of the Davin Moxsom Rugby Scholarship, which is awarded to a Dartmouth High rugby player who best represents the qualities Moxsom brought to the sport.
But the tournament almost didn’t happen, after the Nova Scotia Student Athletic Federation (NSSAF) announced Thursday that it would be banning high school rugby due to safety concerns.
“It was devastating. To us it was really important that we continue,” said Linda Moxsom-Skinner, Davin’s mother.
A statement from Education Minister Zach Churchill urging the NSSAF to reinstate high school rugby allowed for the tournament to continue.
“This community, this was his family and to be able to continue his legacy of coaching high school rugby was just amazing to be able to have that reinstated,” Churchill said.
Shane O’Leary, Davin Moxsom’s uncle, represented Nova Scotia at the Canada Games. He says rugby runs through the blood of his family.
“Davin would have been rolling over in his grave and it would have really hurt our family,” O’Leary says.
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The decision to eliminate high school rugby was made based on the number of injuries reported in a physical year compared to other contact sports, stating that rugby players were three times more likely to suffer an injury compared to hockey football and soccer.
But the president of Rugby Nova Scotia says the NSSAF needs to take a closer look at the statistics.
“For rugby, there were 149 incidents over five years, so it you take that number and look a little more in depth, there are 50 high school teams playing — so 149 incidents over three years is less than one per team, per year,” says Rugby Nova Scotia president Geno Carew.
Coaches, meanwhile, say that safety is at the forefront of every game.
“Rugby was actually at the forefront of ‘when in doubt, sit out,’ which is a program that came out where we said, ‘OK, if you have any symptoms at all, go sit on the bench,’” said Graham Stark, coach of Prince Andrew High School’s rugby team.
Players say an earlier start to the season and more practice time could help alleviate some injuries in the game.
“We get a couple weeks in and then we have games, so it’s kind of like if we had more time to work on those skills and kind of develop them and learn more about the sport, then maybe it wouldn’t be quite so intimidating,” says Prince Andrew rugby player Denver Kinley.
— With files from Whitney Oickle.
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