BILLINGS — Kids have so many sports options these days: football, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming, all are established in the United States. Rugby isn’t necessarily one of them, but a Magic City group has called in some ringers with roots in one of rugby’s strongholds to help out.
“Their great grandfather played for the All Blacks, so a lot of people knew our name growing up," said Josh Riwai-Couch. "‘You’re Ben’s son?’ Yeah!"
Look up “best rugby team in the world," and you’ll find the New Zealand All Blacks. Riwai-Couch’s homeland is one of the few countries in the world to adopt rugby as its national sport.
“We definitely ran around in bare feet out in the parks, just throwing the ball around at lunch time," he said. "You just grow a love for the game. You definitely want to make the big game, make the teams.”
Thanks to the third summer of the Magic City 7’s rugby camp, Josh’s oldest son has now caught the bug.
“Rugby ranks first," Nui Riwai-Couch said of the sports he plays. "If it was 1 out of 100, I would rate it 100.”
Growing up in the United States however has gotten to younger brother Manu.
“I want to play in the NFL," Manu said of the same question.
But there’s hope for Manu yet: his favorite part of the game just happens to be a rugby staple - tackling.
“I just like to take them down to the ground, and it feels good because you get to hit somebody without getting told on," Manu said.
The key is that Josh’s kids are trying at this age - a New Zealand tradition Magic City 7's head coach Adam Kuchin hopes catches on.
“I saw five-year-olds (in New Zealand) with better tackling form than full grown men here in the States," said Kuchin, who won two NCAA rugby national championships playing for BYU. "The younger you can get them interested in it, the more likely they will keep playing as they get older."
If all else fails, Kuchin knows one family will always be with him.
“It’s in their blood," Josh said. "Adam bringing it out here and putting on these rugby camps every summer, it’s huge. It’s huge for me.”
The camp started Monday and goes through Friday. Ages 11 and under practice from 8:00-11:00 a.m., while kids 12 and older go from 12:00-4:00 p.m.