Kansas City Blues Rugby Club, a Sporting Club Network member, have been extremely active recently in promoting their organization as they are increasing the popularity of rugby throughout the Midwest region. Out of the Blue had the opportunity to sit down with Eric Munninghoff, who has been a member of the club since 2003, and learn more about this franchise as they are set to host the first ever Heartland Qualifier 7's tournament this weekend at Legacy Park in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Explain the popularity of the sport in the Midwest, and what component of your club is influential to continue its current growth?
Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Specifically in Kansas City, youth rugby is booming in high schools and youth clubs. Exposure is the biggest influencer, the more exposure we get on social media, the internet and TV, the better for our growth.

What was the main motivation behind the birth of the KC Blues Academy system?
The Blues wanted to create an Academy that would develop high school and college aged rugby players, ages 18-23, who are not yet senior Blues members. We wanted to create a central place that players from schools throughout the heart of America could come and grow their knowledge and skill base in the game of 7's rugby.

Please explain the importance of the Heartlands West Qualifier being held at Legacy Park on Saturday?
The winner of the West Qualifier circuit gets a berth in the national tournament and a chance to compete for a national title. The Blues are the defending champions of the Heartland 7's tournament and are looking forward to taking home another trophy.

What aspect of the sport would be most appealing to someone who may be unfamiliar with rugby and what would they expect to see at a Blues game?
Even if you don't know all the rules, you'll still be able to appreciate the athleticism on display and the hard hitting action. For people who have not been to a Blues game can except to have a fun time and watch players do what they love to do and will be able to see the passion they play with.

Explain the importance of the club's affiliation with the Sporting Club Network and have their been any immediate benefits?
With the Sporting Club Networks help, we will now be able to attract elite regional collegiate players to the Kansas City area with the very strong brand recognition of Sporting Kansas City, with the expressed purpose of developing young high school and college aged athletes. We jumped at the opportunity to join the network and have already seen benefits from our affiliation through the exposure we get as being a part of Sporting Club.

The club will take the field this Saturday in hopes of defending their Heartland 7's championship and will look to compete for a national title. It was a pleasure to have the chance to sit down with Eric and we wish him and the KC Blues organization much success this weekend and in the immediate future!