News and Announcements
The elite Atlantis 7s program has chosen four Schuylkill River Exiles to compete for their U-23 team at the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend in the men’s Aces division. This division features some of the country’s top programs as well as some international competition. As usual, the Schuylkill guys are homegrown Philadelphia rugby players competing at a high level and you can find former U-23 Academy players in their ranks as well as guys who have represented our Club at Nationals on the premier stage. We are proud to see these guys take the next step in their development as players and participate in big events like this.
The aforementioned players are:
John McCurdy – Malvern Prep, University of Delaware
Paul Diorio – Bishop Shanahan, West Chester University
Cody Bukowski – Nanticoke High School/Wilkes-Barre Breakers, Drexel University
Brian Keown – St. Joe’s Prep, University of South Carolina
You can follow their progress at: https://www.usasevens.com/las-vegas/las-vegas-invitational/
1. How long have you been playing rugby?
I started out pretty late for a South African kid, around 9 years old, but I started to take it seriously at around the age of 15.
2. What other clubs have you played for?
I played for Piet Retief Rugby Club for about 10 years. We will be playing against them on the tour to South Africa. I also played for Northern Natal U/21 and the Northern Natal Senior Team.
3. What’s your proudest accomplishment/moment in rugby so far?
I would say it is a tie between 2:
• My old club won the Cup in our league. We went through to play against some big teams in SA rugby. We were the underdogs and made it all the way to the playoffs in that league. Driving to the game the radio announcer referred to us as “The Giant Slayers”.
• When I played for Northern Natal, we played the opening game for the Sharks and the Crusaders on the Kings Park Stadium in Durban.
4. What do you hope to accomplish in your rugby career going forward?
Right now, I am just hoping to get a few more fun years of playing in. I am also starting to focus more on coaching as I recently started at La Salle University. It feels great to be able to coach again as it is something that I loved doing in SA.
5. Is it true that seeing Takudzwa Ngenya roast Brian Habana in the Rugby World Cup in 2007 is what inspired you to come play rugby here in the US?
As soon as I saw that I packed my bags, but then I promptly unpacked when SA won 64-15. Ha-ha, nevertheless what a great moment in world rugby.
6. What are some of your favorite cheesesteak places that you’ve discovered around the city?
Sonny’s and Steve’s. Sonny’s because it was my 1st cheesesteak and Steve’s because nothing tastes as good after 2 in the morning.
7. At my wedding, we numbered the tables and assigned each table to a pro rugby player based on position. We’ve discussed this previously and you’ve contemplated stealing the idea. What’s your top 15 looking like right now?
1. Os du Randt 2. Keven Mealamu 3. Gethin Jenkins 4. Martin Johnson 5. Victor Matfield 6. Schalk Burger 7. Richie McCaw 8. David Pocock 9. George Gregan 10. Dan Carter 11. Brian Habana 12. Jean De Villiers 13. Brian O’Driscoll 14. Shane Williams 15. Andre Joubert.
8. What made you decide to join Schuylkill River?
I initially wanted to play just one game on American soil when I came to visit in June 2016. I called up USA Rugby and asked for a D1 club and they recommend Schuylkill River. I kept the number for if I ever came back. Well here I am…
9. Did you have any impressions of Philadelphia rugby before you joined our Club?
Before I joined the club, I did not expect much because everyone that I asked about rugby knew little to nothing about it. It was a welcome surprise when I joined and the team had some serious players.
10. How has your opinion of what Philadelphia rugby means developed since you’ve joined us and how do you personally try to embody those ideals?
I have come to learn that the guys are tough as nails and they have a strong family-like bond (as rugby should have). I try and promote our club as much as possible and I try to help wherever I can.
11. What is an interesting fact about you that your teammates would be surprised to hear?
It’s about a foot, foot and a half. Ha-ha on the serious side probably just African stuff, I have swum with sharks, I have been kissed by an elephant in the face – and I have played with Cheetahs and Tigers. (Like most of you will be doing on the tour.)
12. If my interviewees are involved in some sort of business I usually give them an opportunity to promote themselves a little bit. Can you tell us about the beef jerky (sorry if that’s not entirely accurate) business that you’re in the process of starting up?
Biltong is a Traditional South African beef snack. It is meat (sirloin steak) that is cured and dried, not cooked or heated. On top of it being delicious, it is high in protein, at 16g per ounce. It has low levels of carbohydrates and sugars (less than 1g per ounce). Biltong has no MSG, no sodium nitrate and no artificial preservatives, colorings or flavorings. I recently started making it on my own in the US and I must admit that I do a damn good job. I am still working on the business part. More to come soon.
13. When you first joined our Club you quickly became friends with James Teti and Brad Selman, do you think hanging out with these maniacs helped prepare you for life in Philadelphia?
I have no affiliation with these degenerates. Ha-ha yeah, Thor taught me how to enjoy a good beer and I taught him what he knows about brandy.
14. Were you a fan of American football before coming to Philadelphia and what was it like being around to experience the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl and the euphoria that came along with it?
I was always fascinated by the sport, but did not watch it as much. I played a lot of Madden growing up so I knew most of the rules. I followed this season and what a season it was, GO BIRDS!! The excitement was very similar to South Africa winning the world cup. I love sport and how it brings people together.
15. Our Club features multiple men’s sides in league play for 15s, several 7s sides including a dedicated U-23 team and involvement with multiple local high school programs. As a player with international experience and perspective how do you think this structure benefits us and does it remind you of the clubs you grew up with?
The setup of the rugby here is very impressive, I was surprised at how well the 7’s program does too. All the clubs in SA mostly have a D1 and D2 team. D2 plays first on game day, the best players on the day get chosen to be on the bench for D1. This gives D2 some experienced players in their game and it ensures that everyone on the D1 side do not get too comfortable with someone gunning for their position. Most of the rugby I played in SA was 15’s, we played 7’s tournaments for fun every now and again.
16. As someone who was new to the area how did our Club culture help you settle in, make friends, and find a place in this city where you could be comfortable knowing you had a good support group around you?
I have made a lot of good friends through Schuylkill Rugby and it feels great to have people you can count on. It is hard to get to know people, but through rugby it was very easy.
17. There are all sorts of rumors that back in South Africa you were a total wild man, how nervous are you right now about what we’re going to dig up when we go there next month?
Ha-ha, I will let everyone judge for themselves when they meet the people I grew up with.
18. You are more or less the reason that our Club is taking that trip to South Africa. How does it feel to get to bring 30 guys to your homeland for an experience that you personally put together?
I have put a lot of time and effort into this trip and just want the guys to have the time of their lives. I hope it brings the club closer together and makes us an even stronger group. A strong group off the field is a force to be reckoned with on the field.
19. What are you most looking forward to on that trip?
I am looking forward to a bunch of stuff like teaching everyone to drink a brandy, but I would say mostly I am looking forward to the game against my old club.
20. Last question, are you jealous of the fact that in 2011 I went to USA 7s in Las Vegas and got to take photos with the South African team after they won the tournament and I got to hold the trophy?
This interview is over.
1. How many years have you been playing rugby?
I started playing spring semester my senior year in college, so about 7 years on and off with eligibility issues sprinkled in.
2. What other Clubs have you played for?
Old Dominion, Villanova, Schuylkill River and a summer with South Jersey.
3. What’s your proudest rugby moment so far?
Probably when Villanova was in the 2013 CRC’s (much to the chagrin of our Drexel teammates). I had a try-saving tackle against UCLA’s Grant Penney followed shortly by busting my eye, my bloody face up on the jumbotron, and getting stiches between matches.
4. What do you hope to accomplish in your rugby career moving forward?
Right now all I want to do is get back to playing after this ACL injury. I loved playing with D1 and feeling like I was playing my best rugby so I just want to get back to 100%.
5. You went to Ireland with Schuylkill in 2016 and are set to go to South Africa with us next month. What was your favorite part of the last trip and what are you most looking forward to for this trip?
My favorite part was probably Ben Rivell offering to marry a girl working at a club and bring her to America. Close second would be Cat Stevens’s vocals on the bus. For South Africa, I am just excited to experience another culture and watch the rest of you practice while hungover.
6. You played a big role in helping to establish “Friendship Rugby” a couple years ago at our match against Happy Valley, tell everyone what that was all about.
Right before our match that day was a women’s game and when they huddled up, they chanted “1, 2, 3, Friendship!” and we thought it was a very interesting way to get hyped for a match. So it became an ironic chant for D3 after that. We wouldn’t do it pre-game but it was a great thing to say after winning and heading to a drink-up. Then after our end-of-year meeting and we realized we needed to improve our social front as a club, I decided a “Friendship Rugby” facebook group was the solution. It has really taken on a life of its own at this point and kind of represents anything fun we do off the pitch.
7. Since that time you’ve taken on the role of Social Chair and done a lot to make sure that guys have opportunities to spend time together off the field. How do you feel that relationship-building amongst the players helps us develop a stronger Club culture?
Having Friendship Rugby really helps all the players get to know each other, new and old. That obviously has an impact for when you are training and playing together. Also, it simply makes rugby an even bigger part of your life. When you are not dedicating time to practice or games, you still find yourself spending your free time with teammates. I honestly do not understand how normal people make friends at all if they aren’t on a rugby club together.
8. When you first joined Schuylkill you started out playing for the second side (Troop) before moving up to the D1 side (Exiles). How did our Club’s structure, with multiple sides in league play, help you refine your game and prepare you to make the jump?
Training with guys with various degrees of skill and knowledge is crucial to improving your own game. Our club has multiple divisions but we do everything as one team so you’re getting great experience competing with the best and learning the game. Also, for me, I feel the coaches are always open to giving a player a chance and testing them at the higher level, so I tried to make the best of my opportunities.
9. Speaking of making the jump to D1, and I’m only mentioning this because you’ve gone on to become a regular D1 starter, on your first play as a D1 player you jumped up to contest a kickoff and the referee yellow carded you for taking an opponent out of the air. There was under 10 minutes left in the match so that was it as far as your debut went. How does it feel to almost certainly hold the record for quickest yellow card, and shortest debut, in our history?
I am the Moonlight Graham of Schuylkill River. It also sucked a bit more that it was a road game. Luckily I can laugh at it now since I had a 2nd chance.
10. You provide a lot of positional flexibility for us by being able to play flanker or hooker. Which position do you prefer to play and how do you use your athleticism to your advantage as a somewhat undersized front row?
No one would ever choose hooker over flanker. No one. But once the scrum breaks, we’re all just playing rugby so I just love being out there. Somewhat undersized? That’s a nice way of putting it. But being hoisted up besides players like Lucas, Sweetheart, Pond, etc. really allows me to just fully commit at any chance to steal a feed, knowing they are doing all the hard work.
11. What’s on your pregame playlist?
I hate pregame. Just nerves and tension waiting for the game. So I don’t listen to anything. I just try and chill out and talk to my friends before kickoff. But whenever I do need to get hyped, it’s KISS and DMX for me.
12. Everyone who gets interviewed is asked for cheesesteak recommendations. What are some of yours?
I gotta go Steve’s Prince of Steaks (16th & Chestnut). Get some of that double meat and wiz.
13. I’ve noticed that professional wrestling is big for you. What would you pro wrestling name and finishing move be?
Yeah my dad loved wrestling and used to compete himself (hence my usual gameday tank top with him flexing). Well sadly Stone Cold Steve Austin is already taken, so I don’t know what I’d do for a name but my finisher would definitely be the greatest submission move of all time, the figure 4 leg lock courtesy of the Nature Boy Ric Flair.
14. What is an interesting fact about you that your teammates would be surprised to hear?
Well most of them have probably heard this because it is the only interesting fact I can ever come up with, but I know all the Oscar Best Pictures since 1968. It’s kinda my thing.
15. We have 5 Villanova alumni on the team (4 law school, 1 undergrad) that I’m aware of. Since Villanova is so well known for its basketball team give me your 5 favorite players of all time.
I’d have to go Rudy Gay, Scottie Reynolds, and Kris Jenkins (purely for that shot). But since I am more of a football guy, I’ll shout out Brian Westbrook and my brother Dillon Lucas who played linebacker for Nova. [Editor’s note, Rudy Gay went to UConn, what the hell Austin? You really are more of a football guy, get it together…]
16. Aside from the South Africa trip, what are you most looking forward to for our Club this upcoming spring?
Home matches. With this injury I am forced to watch from the sidelines and we were mainly on the road in the fall so it sucked travelling only to watch. So I am excited that we will be making this playoff push on our home pitch.
17. You’ve requested in the past that we start using more nicknames in our Club and I’ve tried to work some into the match reports. Can I get 5 new, audience of all ages appropriate, official Austin Lucas approved nicknames for use this spring season?
I refuse to call anyone by their real name so I approve of this initiative. I mean, Brad Selman is saved in my phone as Thor Selman and I introduced Ryan McHugh to my mom via his nicname. How about seven layer bean Dip for Dipin George? Joe Midwig cut his beautiful locks recently, so now he can be Joey NoWig. Kyle King tried to make Taz stick for me. Speaking of King, I think we should all agree to just call him Prince. And if I may, I want to officially denounce one nickname, Brian Taylor as Jackhammer. He likes that nickname way too much.
18. Our club has strong Philadelphia roots. As a big time Eagles fan living in the city what did it mean to you, and what did it mean to the city to finally see the birds win the super bowl and what did you do for the parade?
It means that we can all die happy now. I still feel like it hasn’t really set in that the Eagles are objectively the greatest football team in the world right now, but maybe after proclaiming it non-stop for the next year it will sink in. I was on the north side of the parkway at 21st street with my brother, mom, cousins, friends, and our teammate Dave Gross. We had a good corner spot to see the parade and the jumbotron for the Superbowl replay and speeches.
19. The last time you and I spoke in person was at a fundraiser for the North Philadelphia Nomads high school rugby team and the time before that you were planning an upcoming opportunity for Schuylkill to visit a local children’s hospital. What motivates you to help use rugby as a way to give back to the community and how do you feel the response from the Club has been?
Every single person I mentioned the hospital visit to was pumped and excited. The Club never fails to seize an opportunity to help whether it be for each other, the youth, or the community at large. Whenever we can incorporate rugby into those efforts is just a boon, because we obviously all love the game and hope that others will to when introduced to it.
20. What does Philadelphia rugby mean to you and how do you try to embody those principles?
Anything Philly, you think gritty. Big hits and tough wins. But really, I think that Philadelphia rugby is an all-encompassing lifestyle. You don’t just play rugby on Saturdays and train a few hours a week. You hang out with teammates, go to Brolita’s with teammates, go on vacation with teammates, you live with teammates. Schuylkill River becomes a huge part of your life and I love that and try and add to that.
1. How long have you been playing rugby?
About 10 years off and on, give or take.
2. What other Clubs have you played for?
I played rugby for Penn while I was an undergrad, and then Second City Troop before we came together with Schuylkill under the merger.
3. What sort of process goes into being the best dressed man in American rugby?
Well, everything flows from Yves Saint Laurent’s time honored adage: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Finding your personal style really is the key for anybody. There’s a lot of mixing of colors, textures, fabrics. Find one item you can wear that throws a nice wrinkle into the mix to catch peoples’ eyes. Making sure the fit of my suits are approved by my old Italian tailor. Reading the odd GQ or Vogue magazine for some inspiration from time to time. Ultimately I ask myself “If the spirits of Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, and James Bond could see my outfit, would they approve?” It’s been working well so far.
4. What is the proudest moment of your rugby career so far?
Gotta be a tie between my first start for Penn against Columbia where I charged a kick down in their tryzone for points and the win, and the spring season before last where I subbed in at scrumhalf towards the end of a close game and, cutting across the defensive line, managed to magically find a slashing Ryan McHugh for what ended up being the try that sealed the game for us.
5. What do you hope to accomplish in rugby going forward?
Putting on a solid fifty pounds of muscle so I can properly play flanker one day. Honestly though, on the field I’d really like to just keep upping my game more as a scrumhalf to set up other guys for try scoring opportunities, while working on building our rugby family off it.
6. You traveled to Ireland with Schuylkill 2 years ago and you’re set to go to South Africa next month. What was the best part of the last trip and what are you most looking forward to for this trip?
Well the best part of the Ireland tour has to be a toss-up between watching Kyle King get chased around our hotel bar by a girl who wanted to kiss him for a solid ten minutes before he finally dissuaded her with a spray bottle, and my now famous, completely family friendly, singing episode before the Six Nations game. As for South Africa, I’m looking forward to scrounging around for a gold krugerrand to bring back stateside and seeing how Izak’s hometown friends react to my world renowned singing skills.
7. So no offense intended here but you came to Schuylkill in 2015 as part of the merger with Troop and you’ve spent most of your time as a reserve on our second side. What makes Schuylkill the best Club for you despite the fact that you haven’t been a D1 player?
The comradery, hands down. I always get the feeling that we’re all just one big extended family, whether we’re kickin’ back at Brolitas or on the practice field. Everyone is willing to help you whether it be taking time to work on specific skills or answering questions about on-field stuff. That and the fact that everyone seems to put up with my crazy ramblings.
8. Despite being on the second side I’ve seen you getting an opportunity to do a lot of individual skill work. Greg Mininger in particular, though he’s a player still and not a coach, is good at setting up drills for you to do to improve your game. How does Schuylkill’s structure enable you to develop your game and get better as a player?
One of the things I think that really sets us apart from other clubs is sort of the decentralized brain trust we have on our team. Not only is everyone’s opinion heard and valued, we’ve got such accomplished ruggers throughout our roster from our coaches to our bench it’s like we have a teacher at every position even if they don’t hold any official title. We’ve got guys who’ve played/coached for top tier teams donating their time to see us succeed both on and off the pitch, and I just don’t think any other club can match that.
9. We’ve already established that you’re the best dressed man in American rugby. Are you also the loudest? Where does all of that enthusiasm come from?
If there’s anyone who can pound for pound put out more decibels than me, I haven’t met ‘em. Coming from a Greek and Italian background, I got a lot of practice being heard at family events. If you couldn’t out talk people at the dinner table, then you just weren’t heard. I’ve always been a big believer in the ‘12th man’ effect too so I try to be the best damn hype man in the business for our team when we’re on the pitch.
10. What’s on your pregame playlist?
Usually a mix of sea shanties, classic rock, funk, some Wu-tang, and a few bangers from my man Drake.
11. With our second side participating in a D2 league called “D1B” this year and traveling with the D1 side we’ve been on the road for some slightly longer trips than usual. Do you enjoy the opportunity to spend more time with the guys and develop a good club culture?
Oh absolutely. We’ve got such a cast of characters on this team, the stories and banter we get to trade on the trips to and from games has been an awesome way of bringing us closer. You don’t really get those kinds of opportunities during more focused moments like practice or games.
12. I asked Ryan this question in his interview and it’s pretty important to me. Who is your favorite member of the wu-tang clan?
The Wu-brother number one, the genius – the GZA. Hands down. Liquid Swords is definitely the best hip-hop album of the 90s.
13. I’ve been asking everyone for cheesesteak recommendations but since you’re from the South Philly delegation I’d also be willing to accept some roast beef sandwich ideas. Tell me some of your favorite spots.
I’ll chime in for a roast pork recommendation and there’s only one worth mentioning; John’s Roast pork down on Synder Ave. The place actually won a James Beard award for their sandwiches back in the day. MAJOR KEY ALERT! You must absolutely get it with broccoli rabe and provolone, and ask for a little extra juice on the bread. You won’t regret it.
14. What does Philadelphia rugby mean to you and how do you try to incorporate that into your game on a personal level?
Heart, friendship, and above all true grit. It’s about taking the hardest hit the other guy can throw at you and getting back up to help your teammates over the try line. I may not be the biggest, fastest, or strongest guy on the pitch, but I go into games thinking I’m gonna make damn sure to be the last one standing when the final whistle blows.
15. Who does your heart tell you to cheer for on Game of Thrones and who does your head say is most likely to end up on the Iron Throne?
I’ve been cheering for Tyrion and Bronn, the best bromance in the Seven Kingdoms, since they hit the screen together. I really could care less who sits upon the Iron Throne if they both make it out unscathed and get to retire and kickback in the pleasure houses of Lys when all is said and done. That being said, my head tells me we’re gonna get King Jon Snow before it’s all over.
16. We touched on this in question 8 above but I’d like to go back to it. Our Director of Rugby, Pat Boyle, has frequently stated that our structure provides a player pathway from beginner to D1 player by giving everyone meaningful minutes. Pat has also said that most of his focus in terms of player management is on the second side to ensure that those players succeed. How has this focus on player development affected you, and do you agree that having a Director oversee this process has been a benefit to us as a Club and you as an individual?
For sure. I know Pat’s come to me multiple times with suggestions and tips on how I can improve as a player in our system. And it’s always great having another set of eyes watching out for guys developing into their roles with the team. Having someone who fulfills a hybrid player/executive role seems to be helpful as that person can get and give instant feedback being in drills or on the pitch with other guys watching how they coalesce into a unit and passing that feedback onto the coaches to make roster decisions.
17. If you weren’t a rugby player what would you devote your time to?
Probably becoming an apprentice to the old Italian tailor who fixes up my clothes and learning his trade. Then spending Saturday lounging around Rittenhouse square taking afternoon tea in my hand made suits entertaining some high society ladies.
18. What is an interesting fact about you that your teammates would be surprised to hear?
I literally spoke to one person my entire first month of high school because I was so bad at talking to new people. There was also a time I didn’t wear properly fitted suits. You may now pick your jaws up from the floor.
19. Who is your favorite professional rugby player?
Brian O’Driscoll. I’m pretty sure it was watching highlight videos of him on youtube that got me into rugby in the first place.
20. Per family tradition would you like to use this public forum to bemoan the fact that Elvis was named entertainer of the century over Frank Sinatra?
I actually believe this to be a national tragedy. A wrong that must be righted if America is to continue in its position as a leading first world country and world peace is ever to be achieved. I mean you can’t even begin to compare their catalogues of music. If Time Magazine was willing to pull the wool over your eyes about this, what else are they lying to you about?
1. How long have you been playing rugby?
This season marks my 5th full season of organized rugby.
2. What other Clubs have you played for?
I played 2 ½ seasons of DIAA collegiate rugby at Texas State University, half a season with the Austin Blacks (D1, D2, and D3 sides), and 1 full season with the San Marcos Greys (D3 last year, D2 this year).
3. How did you hear about us and what made you decide to play for Schuylkill River?
I heard about Schuylkill River over the last few seasons primarily through the clubs numerous runs to 7s nationals, as well as in Rugby Today write ups. I knew before I moved to Philly that Schuylkill was the top club in the city, and therefore the club I wanted to play for.
4. With Ricky Kosa coming before you and establishing such a strong Ricky prop legacy how do you handle the added pressure of not besmirching his name?
Ricky Kosa and I have a great relationship, mostly based on a friendly drinking rivalry. People also tell me I am much better looking than Ricky Kosa, which I think takes some of the pressure off of besmirching his name. On the pitch, I just do what Ricky’s do: score tries and scrum people into the ground.
5. You moved from Texas to go to Villanova Law because you wanted to focus on International Law. That’s a big commitment, tell us about your interest in that subject and the thought process that led you to come such a long way.
I studied International Relations at both the undergrad and graduate levels at Texas State. I have also travelled extensively abroad, and also spent the past year working with a refugee resettlement agency in Austin, TX. I actually decided I wanted to go to law school while teaching English in Cambodia. These combined experiences motivated me to attend law school in order to represent refugee populations and other underserved folks.
6. Everyone know that props are the smartest, and best looking, players on the field but usually you guys are too busy doing the dirty work to find the try-zone. Have you ever been the leading try scorer (tied with Ben Janssen) on your team for an entire season before?
Last season I finished in the top 5 in try scoring for the San Marcos Greys with 8 tries (it might have been 7 but who is counting). However, I think our top try scorer after playoffs, Antonyo McCall, had over 20 so I was not too close to first. One of my good friends and mentors at the prop position, Flip Oakes, always encouraged me to be more than just a solid defensive and set piece player, but to also contribute on the offensive end. I’ve always taken that advice to heart. There’s really nothing like punching in a try in rugby.
7. Speaking of which, our social media team posts “Man Crush Monday” photos of the front rows whenever they score and you definitely post photos to your personal account hoping that Schuylkill will steal them. What did you think about joining Schuylkill in order to play serious D-1 rugby but then find out that we also have a very active social media presence and are willing to have a little fun with it?
I love the social media presence of this club. I think in the past some of my clubs have done a decent job of it, but I think our club more than anything really helps folks get to know our players. I think that social media presence helps keep family, friends, and fans involved in the game, even if they can’t make it out to the match.
8. What is your proudest rugby moment of your career so far?
Making it to the national semi-final last year with the Greys was a huge accomplishment. That group of guys, with a great new coach in Kirk Tate, was really able to accomplish something special by finishing 3rd in the nation. My hat is off to those guys this year as well, as they have moved up to D2 this season and are 3-0 after three big wins.
9. What do you hope to accomplish as a rugby player going forward in your career?
Well, playing D1 rugby was always the goal, so I would say continuing to do that at a high level over the foreseeable future. I also really enjoy playing rugby internationally, and would love to have a chance to play in my familial homeland of New Zealand.
10. You’re coming to South Africa with us in March, what are you looking forward to most, and is this your first overseas rugby experience?
South Africa is always a place that has fascinated me, even before I got into the sport of rugby. I am excited to meet the people there, as travelling to Africa has been a lifelong dream of mine. This will not be my first overseas rugby experience. I played rugby last summer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with the Phnom Penh Social Rugby Club Rahus.
11. Front rows gotta eat, what are some cheesesteaks spots you’ve discovered so far that you’ll be recommending to your out of town buddies when they visit Philly?
My favorite cheesesteak spot so far has to be Dalessandro’s Steaks. That place is not messing around. I’ve already taken one out of state friend there, and plan to take many more.
12. Our Club has two sides in league play. As a tight 5 player, do you feel that our structure was a benefit to us as a Club and you as an individual by ensuring that anyone getting slotted into the pack wasn’t coming in cold and had been playing meaningful minutes?
I think having multiple sides is essential for any high-level rugby club. The ability to have numbers at practice, scrimmage and get a run in against another side, and especially to live scrum during practice all present huge advantages. I also think it is a great way to grow a club from the ground up so to speak; you’re able to get guys in the door, let them play serious minutes early in their career, and build that depth for the future.
13. We’ve sort of addressed the fact that you’re a total nerd in school but pretty beastly on the field. What helps you make that transformation on gameday and what’s on your pregame playlist?
Rugby has always been an outlet for me. I was pleasantly surprised to find 3 Villanova Law alums on the rugby pitch at Schuylkill River RFC. I think having your mind right on gameday is actually all about what you do during the week to be ready for Saturday. If I haven’t been in the gym or at practice, or have eaten poorly all week, it’s extremely hard to flip the switch so to speak. It’s important to build and trust your personal process and stick with it during the season.
As far as playlist goes, I really enjoy a rap group called Ground Up, which is coincidentally out of Philly (seriously go check them out). I also am a huge Run the Jewels fan and use them constantly to get pumped up on gameday or in the gym.
14. Now that you’re a Philadelphian are you willing to claim that Meek Mill won the battle against Drake no matter what anyone else says?
To the extent that I am qualified to pass judgment on rap battles, I am happy to admit the supremacy of Meek Mill, no matter what anyone else says.
15. The next time that you visit your family are you going to make sure to use the word jawn a few times?
I am definitely still working on my PA dialect. If I can get the pronunciation down I would love to use this all the time, especially in Texas.
16. What are your thoughts on Schuylkill River rugby, and really Philadelphia rugby as a whole, now that you’ve been here a while?
I just knew this club had a history of success and I wanted to be a part of it. Philadelphia rugby has been so central to my transition to living up here over the past 6 months. I truly don’t know what I would have done without the club. Thanks for making me feel welcome gents!
17. Expanding on that, after your first league match with our Club we went to a premiership rugby match in Chester and our most recent league match was a two night stay in Pittsburgh where we went out as a team the second night. After spending a season with us, how do you feel about our Club’s culture and the opportunity to get out to events like these with your teammates?
I think the Club culture here is tremendous. I think I was a little concerned about the East Coast standoffishness when I moved up here, and the rugby community has been anything but that. I have already made a ton of lifelong friends, and this only goes to prove once again that all you have to do to have 30 new best friends in any place in the world is just find the rugby club.
18. In these interviews I usually try to see if I can get guys to trash talk each other at least once. Is there anyone you’d like to use this opportunity to call out?
You know, I’m not a big trash talker, but I think Mr. Tyler “Krampus:” Kelly’s antics in Pittsburgh take the cake. I won’t mention the specifics, but man that mild-mannered fella knows how to party and trash a hotel room.
19. The Royal Rumble was in Philadelphia last night. If our Club had a 30 man royal rumble who, aside from yourself, would you bet on to win it?
I think it would be a final matchup between the always nasty Ben Janssen and the grumpy old man Matt Chiaramonte. I feel like the smart money would be on Ben, but Matt with that dad bod still has some tricks up his sleeve.
20. Aside from the South Africa trip what are you most looking forward to this upcoming Spring season?
I am most looking forward to the D1 playoffs. We still have some work to do to get there, but I am extremely excited to see what this group of guys can do in the postseason.