The 2012 Havana Howlers 7's Rugby Tournament 
 by John Walters
Lets be honest, Havana is not known for its rugby so it was something of a surprise last weekend, (Dec 1-2, 2012), to see that rugby posts had been erected at the Eduardo Saborit stadium in Havana’s leafy Western suburb of Siboney. Between these posts were some formidable looking men (and woman) limbering up, getting ready to play. Interest piqued I thought that that was as good a chance as any to introduce my kids to the joys of the running game. The nuances of a chip and chase or a grubber. The difference between a maul and a ruck. Prop, hooker (don’t go there), Scrum half, Fly-half, Centre and fullback – what more do they need to know.

I had stumbled upon the IRB sanctioned Havana Howlers 7's Rugby Tournament. A two-day tournament, which pits the best of Cuba against, a mixture of young national and club teams from around the world. Lets rumble…

Photographs by Yadira M. © All rights reserved.

About the Havana Howlers 7's Rugby?Tournament
About the Havana Howlers 7's Rugby Tournament
The IRB sanctioned Havana Howlers 7's Rugby Tournament is jointly organized by the Cuban Rugby Federation and the Dog River Howlers Rugby Club based out of Canada. The idea of the tournament is to help promote and develop rugby in Cuba along with creating new relationships/bonds between the participating teams. This was the second full tournament with a complete woman’s division in addition to the men’s program.
Results of the 2012 Tournament
Twelve teams from seven countries spent two days scrimmaging, tackling, and running under a benevolently gentle Caribbean sun. Undoubtedly on the woman’s side there was no one to set a torch to The Dog River Howlers who beat the Cuban National Women's team 29-0 in the final. On the men’s side the two teams from Trinidad and Tobago, Rainbow SCC and T&T Enthusiast Rugby Football Club (TTERFC), were both formidable. Indeed one of the semi-finals was an all-Trinidadian affair, which TTERFC won 10-5 before going on to defeat the Dog River Howlers men’s team and defending champions 41-5 in the final.

And the Cuban teams – they have someway to go, undoubtedly full of talent, elegant and graceful they simply got outplayed. You do go away thinking though that if Cuba ever really takes up rugby they will be a force to be reckoned with! Hats of to the wonderfully names The Dog River Howlers for making this tournament happen and bringing such a brilliant spirit and life to this unheralded game in Cuba.
The Dog River Howlers
The Dog River Howlers
The Dog River Howlers are an invitational rugby club founded by Karl Fix in early 2007 for the lovers of ‘our game’.  The club is based in Dog River, Saskatchewan, Canada. The Howlers are made up of players and supporters from all parts of Canada, as well as a few from other countries, who believe that ‘rugby is more than a game, but a way of life’. The club tours to interesting parts of the world, plays rugby and enjoys unique cultural experiences, while also giving something back to that country's sport and/or people. The Howlers also raise funds and contribute to worthwhile endeavors, which are not related to rugby. The Howlers use ‘our game’ as a vehicle to build bridges between people around the world.
For more information see:
Karl Fix, President of the Dog River Howlers explains their Cuban involvement
‘I saw the passion that they [the Cubans] had for the game. There are great, great athletes, but they just had no support. You can't play without balls, you can't develop a game without balls and jerseys and boots and people to teach what they know. I saw that they are very genuinely passionate about life and about the game. They just needed a bit of a helping hand.

When our players go down there and they say they're with the Dog River Howlers, they're held in very high esteem. One reason is because we're a good team and we've done really well down there - usually winning or coming in second - but the rugby community realizes that without the Howlers, Cuban rugby wouldn't be where it is today ... They realize the impact that Canadians - Canada and the Howlers - have had on their game.

It's also a learning experience for our players, [whose Howlers are involved in several good causes outside of rugby including the support of a local orphanage in Cuba]. They've got to raise some money, save some money to go on this trip. They get to play some high-level rugby - a number of them go on to play for national teams - and they get a great cultural experience. And later on when it's their turn, they've got to step up to the plate and do the same thing. It's the circle of life that I hope that these young people grasp and many of them do. We always say, 'It's more than a game; it's a way of life.'

Rugby is just a vehicle - it's part of your education, part of your life skills.’
[Extract from an interview by Ed Kapp, For The Leader-Post December 28, 2012]
The 2012 Havana Howlers 7's Rugby Tournament
December 2012
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