Ratty rituals turn students off rugby

Students who want to play rugby at some English varsities have to endure extreme humiliation. (David Rogers/Getty Images)

Students who want to play rugby at some English varsities have to endure extreme humiliation. (David Rogers/Getty Images)

Bizarre university rituals — including having to fish dead rats out of buckets — are contributing to a dramatic drop-off in the number of rugby players in England, a report said this week.

Britain’s The Times newspaper said other initiations included chilli powder being applied to sensitive areas and new students having vomit thrown over them.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body in England, estimates that 10 000 recent school-leavers have stopped playing the sport since the end of last season and fears one reason is that they are put off by the rugby culture at university.

Students at the University of Manchester have had to participate in a twisted version of apple bobbing, using their mouth to pull a dead rat from a bucket of cider, The Times report said.

At Loughborough University, students have reportedly been challenged to drink four litres of cider. They were all then sick into a bucket and the last to finish had the vomit thrown on them.

University of Bath students were blindfolded, ordered to put their hands out and then urinated on, The Times said.

“It’s not me or anyone being square.
It’s got beyond that. We see the rugby club standing on chairs, throwing up into bins and being forced to drink vomit,” one student told The Times.

Another said: “There’s no way you can play university rugby without buying into the culture.”

RFU rugby development director Steve Grainger said he was shocked by the reports.

“We have to be careful we don’t sensationalise it and give people the impression it happens whenever you go near any rugby team,” he told the paper. “For every story you hear about an initiation, you can talk to 100 players who have never been near one or didn’t know they existed.

“But when we do hear about it, you can’t help your stomach turning and thinking: ‘That is another challenge we have to overcome,’ because it changes peoples’ perception of the game.”

It is not the first time British university rugby culture has been in the spotlight.

In 2014, the London School of Economics disbanded its rugby club for an academic year after the publication of a leaflet described as “misogynistic, sexist and homophobic”. — AFP

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