The Essex County Youth Rugby Bulldogs will soon begin their season with the hopes of making it three straight high school state championships. It’s a journey that will take them overseas to train with one of the world’s best teams.
“It’s the fastest growing sport in high school right now,” said Tom Beriau, the organization’s founder. “There are 32 different high school teams in Massachusetts and they’re adding five to six more every year. It’s already a varsity sport in the Catholic Conference, where teams like Catholic Memorial and Central Catholic play.”
Beriau founded the organization six years ago as a two-team program, with an under-9 team and an under-12 team. The program quickly blossomed, and soon a third under-15 team was added before making its way to the high school level.
“There are three divisions of rugby in Massachusetts,” Beriau said. “There’s D1, D2 and Club Division. We are in the Club Division made up of six teams. On our team, there are high school kids from Amesbury, Masconomet, Pentucket, Whittier, Newburyport and Triton.”
While the season will begin for the Bulldogs on Sunday against the Island Rugby Football Club, the team will take to England soon after to train with the London Irish Premier Club.
“They bring players from around the world to play Premier Rugby,” Beriau said. “It’s almost as big as the NFL. The Rugby World Cup is the second-most watched sporting event, and is more watched than the NFL’s Super Bowl. It’s the second most popular sport in the world and it’s where football and basketball originated from.”
The relationship with the London Irish began last year when members of its team traveled to America to give the young kids playing Essex County Youth Rugby instruction.