Islay_0003 © 2015 Jacob Balzani Lööv. All rights reserved.

The Spirit of Rugby

Every year an unusual rugby competition take place on Islay, the southernmost island of the inner Hebrides of Scotland. The tournament takes places directly on the beach of Port Hellen, making it the northernmost beach rugby event and there are no rules, or just very few. Teams of 5 players, with up to 5 reserves, compete with a standard rugby ball on a sand pitch of only 25 by 20 metres. It is difficult to remain sober on the island, world famous for its peated whiskies, the atmosphere is closer to a party than a competition, both raucous, laid-back, and a wild time. Not surprisingly the tournament is sponsored by Bruichladdich, a well known distillery. Famous teams come to compete from all around Britain alongside with teams from local distilleries and a team invited from abroad like the italian Bogia Nen in 2011.

Police is always pleasantly surprised to witness such a large number of people enduring so much high-octane partying with relatively very few incidents, some broken arms and waist, since sand is not forgiving. But this is the rugby way: 32 teams of players, some meeting for the first time, others renewing old acquaintances, united under Islay spirit and rugby ethos because, as they like to say, rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.

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