Club team travels to train abroad

In an effort to improve as a team – and to have a bit of fun – the UVM men’s rugby club ventured across the Atlantic to Ireland over spring break.

The trip was organized by club coach and UVM professor, Declan Connolley, a Northern Ireland native.

According to sophomore Ross Cunningham, a flanker on the team, the idea for the trip first developed in the fall of first semester.

He said that the initial goal of the excursion was to help the team develop and to give the players a taste of the sport’s origins.

But because the club is not a varsity sport, it only gets limited funding from SGA, which left it up to the players to raise money in order to make the trip possible.

After some fundraising and digging into their own pockets, the team managed to finance the trip and, once the plane touched down, hit the ground running.

“It was hard to know what to expect in terms of the level of rugby we were going to be facing over there,” Cunningham said. “We may have been a little intimidated by the level of play but we were ready to step it up and rise to that challenge,”

Following a red-eye flight, the team immediately began training at Trinity College in Dublin under a prestigious coach who used to coach the U.S. Rugby Team.

The different take of a new coach seemed to help the team, Cunningham said.

“We have great coaches but it’s always nice to learn from someone else and to get a different perspective,” Cunningham said.

Though the rules of the game are the same on both sides of the pond, the style of play differed in many respects. Sophomore James Dailey, who plays prop for the team, said the club improved their attack along with learning a few new things on defense as well.

“One of the things we took away from it the most was a highly improved offense. The way we set and how aggressive our offense is, is significantly improved. On defense our communication is also much better.”

The club didn’t make the journey just to train, they also played three games as well, two against men’s teams, the Sutton Suttonians and Clanwilliam Rugby Club.

They also played the National University of Ireland at Galway’s rugby team, in a game that resulted in a victory for UVM.

Cunningham mentioned that the teams matched up well but the technique of the Irish teams differed from that of the UVM club team. Even with the difference in style of play, the

UVM club managed to turn a few heads.

“The main difference in playing teams over there was that the men move the ball much quicker and ran much harder,” Cunningham said. “I think we definitely held our own and I think they were impressed at our level of play,”

Other differences included the post-game when the teams would meet in the host’s clubhouse to socialize and drink pints, something one wouldn’t see in the U.S.

Not only did the club improve on the pitch, the men were able to bond as a team and enjoy the excitement of a foreign country together.

“You get to know a lot of people on a more personal level then we did before, it’s very good for team solidarity.” Dailey said.

The team hopes to take what it learned overseas up against Middlebury, one of the top clubs in Division II, in an upcoming off-season match.