UNCG assistant rugby coach Josh Sutcliffe makes a point during Tuesday's March 1, 2011 rugby practice.

Josh Sutcliffe is used to black eyes, bruised shins and being caked with mud—lots of mud—all in the name of sport.

Josh plays rugby, a sport that is a mystery to most Americans, but one of the popular sports from England to New Zealand.

“Rugby is a very physical game,” says Josh, 29, assistant coach of UNCG’s club rugby team. He’s also a senior majoring in Business Administration at the Bryan School of Business and Economics, a fitness entrepreneur and a member of an international championship rugby squad.

Getting dirty, sometimes bloodied and being packed like a sardine in the middle of a scrum—a rugby formation where players interlock heads and shoulders in a gritty version of a football huddle—is part and parcel of playing rugby, he says.

When he’s not on the rugby pitch or the classroom, Josh is a coach and certified personal trainer at CrossFit Greensboro, a company that provides customized strength and conditioning training. After graduation, Josh hopes to meld business and rugby by working in management and perhaps coaching professional rugby in Europe.

Josh began playing in his native Australia where rugby (a sport that pre-dates football) is the most-watched sport on television. While both sports use an egg-shaped ball and involve passing, tackling and driving toward a goal, most rugby players forgo pads, helmets and protective gear in favor of shorts and soccer-style jerseys.

“Rugby is a contact sport with a huge amount of finesse,” says Josh, who likens football to a demolition derby and rugby to NASCAR.

Rugby is a contact sport with a huge amount of finesse.

In 2010, Josh, whose mother is Filipino, earned a spot on the Philippine National Men’s Rugby team. “The Philippines is a really new country for rugby,” says Josh, whose pride in representing his mother’s country is evident.

The Philippine team—nicknamed the Volcanoes—traveled to India to compete in the Asian 5 Nations Division ll Tournament where they upset the heavily favored host team to earn top honors. “We refused to be intimidated,” says Josh. This spring, Josh and the Volcanoes will participate in a two match series against Hong Kong.

Closer to home, Josh helped coach the UNCG rugby team to a sweep of the 2009 North Carolina Rugby Union tournament where the team placed first in their division. In the spring of 2010, the team won the Dogwood League trophy, going undefeated before losing to the defending national champion.

Josh credits his wife, Julie, a masters student in Department of Kinesiology at UNCG’s School of Health and Human Performance, with helping him stay focused and balance his busy life as an athlete, coach, student and father to their young daughter.

For Josh, being an ambassador for the sport of rugby is a labor of love. “It takes all different types of people to make a rugby team,” he says. “The players who are involved are all passionate.”

By Jill Yesko

Photography by Chris English, University Relations