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South L.A.s first Rugby team to compete in England

OW Staff | 1/21/2009, 5 p.m.

Los Angeles, CA - ICEF Public Schools, a network of 13 high-performing public charter schools in South Los Angeles, will send 12 students from its ICEF Rugby League, the first inner-city rugby program in Los Angeles, to England this month to stay at Wellington College and play against its rugby team, considered one of the best high school teams in England.

To prepare for the games in England, renowned rugby coach Jake Howard, who led Australia to the World Cup Championship and coached both Oxford and Harvard universities, volunteered to hold a coaching seminar for ICEF's coaches and to mentor players during several practices over the next two weeks.

ICEF Public Schools is the only K-12 school operator in the nation to send students on scholarships to play rugby internationally five years in a row. Through rugby, ICEF students have traveled to Hong Kong, New Zealand and England, allowing the students to be able to explore rugby competition at some of the nation's most prestigious universities.

Long considered a middle and upper class Commonwealth sport, rugby teams are rare in the U.S., particularly in the inner city. Founded by ICEF Public Schools CEO--and longtime rugby player--Michael D. Piscal in 2003, the ICEF Rugby League is designed to send a clear message to students: if you want to experience the world you see through rugby, the ticket is a higher education. Every single one of ICEF's graduates in their first two graduating classes has been accepted to college.

The 12 students are going to England on scholarship. They had to apply and were accepted based on their performance in rugby, as well as in academics.

"When I was playing internationally, I had a vision of coming back to America and bringing rugby not to traditional private schools and colleges, but developing it in the inner city because that's where it would explode," said ICEF Rugby League Director Stuart Krohn, who coached rugby at Dartmouth College and played International Rugby as the captain of the Hong Kong team for eight years. "These kids are leaders just for coming out to do something new that didn't exist, and just like they are pioneers at the school, they are pioneers in this sport."