By CARTER WALLER
The Men’s Rugby Club at the University of Mary Washington returned from Spring Break with extensive knowledge of the game they play following a ten-day trip to Ireland that lasted from February 27 to March 7.
The club toured the country by bus, traveling and staying in the Irish cities of Cork, Dublin and Ennis. In Cork, the club had a scheduled game against the University of Cork Con cancelled at the last minute due to forfeiture by the opposing university. The University of Cork Con reasoned that it did not have enough players for the match, according to senior flanker Matt McAloon.
“In our last visit two years ago, we played against two different Irish teams. Not only did we learn from them, they learned from us,” said McAloon. “There are slight differences in American and Irish rugby, so it was a great learning experience for both sides. I felt a little disrespected by our opponent because it was scheduled four months beforehand and a big reason for why we organized the trip in the first place.”
Despite the game’s cancellation, the club’s itinerary provided plenty of other opportunities to expand their rugby knowledge. According to senior Danny Wehr, who plays the prop position, the team held a practice with Brendan O’Connor, a former professional rugby player for Munster of the Guinness Pro12 European rugby league.
“Mr. O’Connor gave a lot of great advice that he learned from playing professionally,” said Wehr. “He was able to connect with us person-to-person and was really a great mentor for the amount of time we had with him.”
The men’s team attended a Guinness Pro12 game in Cork between Munster and Glasgow, where Munster won 22-10.
“The Munster game was a great experience, and I think I speak for the whole team,” said McAloon. “Everyone was watching the players, seeing how they played individually and as a team. Watching how professionals attacked or defended in certain situations was very rewarding because I can incorporate certain aspects into my playing style.”
In Dublin, the team held a practice with a coach of an Irish U-20 rugby team to expose more playing methods and tactics. According to Wehr, his favorite experience from the trip occurred in Dublin.
“I had the best time during our participation in the wheelchair rugby event,” said Wehr.
Wheelchair rugby, or Murderball in the United States, is a game designed to resemble rugby, but uses a volleyball rather than a rugby ball. The wheelchairs are designed for contact, though physical contact between players is not permitted in the game.
“It was a really rewarding experience because of the things we have done since the club’s last trip,” said Wehr. “We donated jerseys to a wheelchair rugby team in Dublin last year, and when we arrived to the event this year, we were able to play alongside them and against them, which was great for everyone involved.”
The trip, according to Wehr, continued the team’s tradition of visiting the country every other year, and was planned by club director and former UMW rugby player, Tim Brown.