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Watch: Snow-powered rugby in Central Finland

In some places snow means rugby games get postponed, but not in Jyväskylä. The city's annual 'Snow Rugby' tournament attracts teams from across Finland - and now also from other parts of Europe.

Snow rugby tournaments have been an annual event in Jyväskylä since 2002. The unusual sport has built a reputation among rugby aficionados worldwide, with many now trekking to Central Finland every year to participate.

Snow rugby players say it's quite different from the full game.

"Yeah, your fingers are cold and freezing, and you're dropping the ball because it's slippery and icy, but it brings a nice new element to the game," said Jessi Mäenpää who captains the Turku Swans, a women's team from south-west Finland.

The snow version also differs from the fifteen or thirteen-player codes of rugby in that there are just seven players on each team and the pitch measures 20 metres by 45 metres. The venue is the Laajis winter sports facility, which offers opportunities for downhill skiing and even downhill skating in addition to snow rugby.

Organisers say the event was key to developing Finland's burgeoning rugby scene.

"It was started to enjoy rugby, to get people to know each other, to have a lot of fun, and to create a rugby scene in Finland such as it is," says Kati Leskinen, the event organiser. "You play full on against somebody but when you get off the pitch you have a beer together, you have a laugh, it's all about respecting each other."

Far-flung teams

The tournament might sound crazy—and it isn't for everyone—but once people give it a go many of them come back year after year.

"I think this is the fifth year the Swans have been here and this somehow just suits our team so well," says Mäenpää. "We are 26 girls here today for this tournament, we are crazy for the idea and the atmosphere of the tournament, it's just always so much fun to come here and spend the day in this beautiful venue and play rugby in snow and enjoy this awesome rugby spirit that's here in every team at this tournament."

One of the farther-flung teams in the 2018 edition was GFP rugby from Romania. They played in their bright blue hats, a more serious kit than the bunny outfits some others turned up in.

"It's actually the first result in Google when you search for 'snow rugby'," said Alexandru Pavel of the GFP Rugby Club from Romania." And why not, to have a beautiful experience, to meet new people, to make new friends, because this is the spirit of rugby. Like gentlemanship, honour, friendship, and for what's happening after the match of rugby. We are fighting like it's our final moments on the field, and after that the teams became friends. And this is the beauty."

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