The Marin Highlanders Rugby Club is one of the best kept secrets in the North Bay. They've been around for over 30 years as a high performance youth rugby program teaching the sport to kids from 8 to 18 years of age.

"It's a niche," says head coach David Cingolani. "You have to be the right kind of athlete to come out and play, but the great thing about this game is there's a position for every size kid."

Most of these athletes participate in other sports and didn't grow up playing rugby.

"I picked up rugby because I like the contact from football, but also like the thinking game of soccer," says captain David Cingolani. "So, it combines both of them and I really love it."

"Being able to run the ball and make tackles, pass and kick, it really incorporates all things that are amazing about sports into one game," says another team captain Louis Le Merle.

Rugby is multifaceted, unlike most sports where you have a specialized talent.

"I think one of the best things is anyone can run with the ball," says assistant coach Jeremiah Bornstein. "You have to be ready to play any position on the field and I think a lot of the guys like that as compared to football."

The Highlanders are a club sport funded by parents. There are 200 kids in the program and like all contact sports concussions are an issue.

"We do a lot to mitigate the problem," says Cingolani. "We require everyone to have mouthpieces, a lot of the guys have pre-concussion screening, but the big thing with rugby is the way we teach players how to go into contact and tackle."

The Highlanders qualified for the U.S.A. high school club national championships in Utah this weekend for the first time since 1982.

"Oh, we're pumped. We're pumped," says Le Merle. "It's a once in a lifetime experience."

"The competition will be very high," says Collins. "I think we have a chance to do some damage with our team."

Marin's best kept secret is about to go nationwide.

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marin county, larkspur, sports, mike shumann
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