Travels with an Odd-Shaped Ball – A Rugby Tour Around the World

by on Feb.11, 2014, under Australia, Fiji, Ireland, New Zealand

My other great sporting love after snowboarding is rugby. There was no explicit intention to catch any rugby during our trek around the world. And yet, from beach rugby to International Tests, local teams playing in the park to the British and Irish lions winning Down Under, in Fiji, Australia, NZ and back in Ireland, I somehow managed to accidentally pull off an all-time epic rugby tour. The words “jammy” and “git” come to mind. Lads, please don’t hate me… ;)

Here’s a collection of pictures from my rugby adventures (there’s lots more in the gallery at the bottom too). Ordinarily what goes on tour, stays on tour but this time is the exception!

The cibi faces off against the haka, soaking up the pre-match atmosphere at the 3rd Lions Test, Super 14 rugby in Sydney and park footy in Christchurch

My last game for my club back home came a few weeks before we set off. CYM RFC has been a big part of my life for the last few years and means a lot to me, so to sign off with a win was extra special. I hadn’t told the lads beforehand it was my last game (for the time being – I’ve few miles on the clock so I reckon I can play on for a while yet. Honest…), but I still thanked them for the leaving present! “You’re a last game!”

Photos by: Troy Reneker (top left and right) and CYM RFC (bottom)
Me lining up a kick at goal, and celebrating a win v Naas in my final game with the rest of the squad and our coach.

It was months before I touched a ball again and my rugby exposure was limited to early morning matches caught on stuttering online feeds. So when a game of touch rugby broke out between a bunch of tourists and some local lads when I was chilling out on a beach in Fiji I didn’t need to be asked twice to join in. Players from American, Canada, Britain and Ireland mixed in with the Fijians and a lot of fun was had. Cheeky dummys and blind passes were the order of the day!

Photos by the lovely American couple I met on Mantaray Island. If you read this, drop me a mail so I can credit you – I don’t have your details!
Landing back to earth after a high take and general beach rugby shenanigans

By chance I happened to be in Suva, the Fijian capital, when a match celebrating the centenary of the Fijian Rugby Union was taking place – Fiji against the Classic All Blacks. A cracking evening with a great atmosphere. The new stadium looked well, the cibi facing off against the haka was electric, the crowd were in great spirits (even though I couldn’t understand half the banter I could still laugh along) and the match was a great spectacle with Fiji coming out convincing winners by the end. Good fun. I also ended up hanging out at the after party back in town with a new Fijian friend who turned out to be a minor local celeb – it ended up being an epic night. But the story of that one can keep to another day… ;)

Outside the stadium, an expectant crowd, and the game kicks off.

Action from the game and the teams gathered together after the final whistle.

Next up was the a match at the pinnacle of the sport – Australia against the British and Irish Lions. I met up with a bunch of old team mates from back home, some of whom were in Oz for the Lions Tour and others who were living there, and we had a blast of a day and night at the 3rd and deciding Test of the series. It was one of the most incredible games I’ve been lucky enough to attend with an amazing atmosphere, huge crowd and some fantastic rugby played. Being there, for a Lions win at that, is something I’ll never forget. Having the craic with the lads was the icing on the cake.

CYM on tour and soaking up the pre match atmosphere

The Lions contest a lineout, Halfpenny lines up a kick, North scores in the corner, the fans celebrate and the lap of honour

A week later myself and Lisa were back in Sydney and caught a Super 14 game between the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds…

..and at the other end of the scale I watched a few club games in a park in Christchurch, New Zealand when we were out strolling around the city on a sunny afternoon.

I also caught an pre-season warm up between provincial sides Canterbury and Tasman after spotting them warming up from a whale-watching plane in Kaikoura, New Zealand (as you do). With school kids, middle aged women and old men, all well informed and who knew their rugby, joining passing randomers(like, eh, me) to watch the game it reminded me of a rural GAA match back home.

The view from the air, enjoying the game

Boom! Big hit.

Action from the game and local rugby fans enjoying the match.

And that was almost the lot! The last leg of my un-official rugby tour took me back to Dublin. A pre-season Leinster match in Donnybrook and a tag tournament back at the club rounded out a series of experiences that took me from the highest levels of the game to the very lowest (that would be me, in case that’s not clear!).

Photos from the CYM tag day by: Matthew Pierce
Leinster back in Donnybrook stadium, and me, freshly shorn of my flowing locks(!), taking part in the CYM tag rugby tournament

Unfortunately there’s no rugby club here in Whistler anymore, so I have to make do with getting up a ridiculously early hours to catch games from back home and reminiscing about my globe-trotting rugby tour. Good times…


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