By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – The second annual Big Sky Sevens Rugby Tournament kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 14 at the Big Sky Community Park multi-use fields.

Seven teams of seven players each will converge on the field Saturday, shoeing their way to the tourney from Big Sky, Bozeman, Missoula, Billings and even Spokane, Wash. Each squad is part of the Montana Rugby Union, the only surviving league that hasn’t integrated into USA Rugby, the governing body over every other rugby league in the nation.

Tournament organizer Ben Johnson expects a hard-hitting event. “We’ll see a lot of good rugby,” said Johnson, 28, and an assistant manager at the Hungry Moose Market and Deli in Big Sky Town Center. “Sevens [rugby] is very fast paced and exciting to watch.”

“Sevens” refers to the number of players per team, and with fewer players than “15s,” requires less strategy and more pure athleticism, Johnson said.

Johnson started playing club rugby in 2004 while he was in school at the University of Montana in Missoula. He’s lived in Big Sky for three years and started the tournament here last year.

“Big Sky is my perfect place to live, and the one thing it was missing was a rugby club, so I thought I’d see what happens when I tried to start one.”

Even though the Big Sky squad hasn’t played together for very long, Johnson likes their chances and hopes for a strong community turnout on Saturday. “The idea is to every year make it a little bigger, a little better,” he said.

The Gallatin Riverhouse Grill will host an afterparty following the matches, beginning between 6 and 7 p.m. Email Johnson at Benjamin.jay.johnson@gmail.com for more information and visit the Big Sky Rugby Club on Facebook for updates.