Pedaling to Ireland: Ruggers Train, Tour Over Break

Men’s rugby spent a week training on the wind-swept west coast of Ireland. (Courtesy Chris Shin ’17)

Men’s rugby spent a week training on the wind-swept west coast of Ireland. (Courtesy Chris Shin ’17)

On night in mid-November when temperatures dipped below freezing, Nick Martin ’15 sat pedaling on a stationary bike outside of Frist Campus Center. He was one of 40 Princeton men’s rugby players and alumni to participate in the team’s “Dash to Dublin” — a round-the-clock, eight-day bike-a-thon to raise money for the spring break training trip that the team just returned from.

The tour, which has been part of Princeton rugby tradition since the mid 1970s, is critical for the team. The Tigers have traveled to England, Argentina, the Cayman Islands, and all over the world to see how their team stacks up against international standards in places where rugby is the most popular sport.

This year the team traveled to Ireland, where not only is the competition tougher, but the weather is too. The squad spent the majority of its time training on the west coast near notoriously windy Galway.

“The field was soaked in water. It was one of the windiest places I’ve ever been,” Martin said. “You’d be standing around the huddle and get blown over. You couldn’t even pass the ball. It’s definitely not like Princeton.”

The Ireland trip included two practices each day, which helped the team prepare for the spring tournament season. (Courtesy Will Hicks ’15)

The Ireland trip included two practices each day, which helped the team prepare for the spring tournament season. (Courtesy Will Hicks ’15)

The Tigers worked with the coaches of Connacht Rugby, a professional Irish rugby team, and practiced twice a day for the week. The trip culminated in a match between Princeton and Yates College, which Princeton narrowly lost by one point.

At this point in the year, however, any kind of play is good practice for the team. After a 2-4 regular season in the fall and a long winter off, the spring is championship season for the Tigers. In two weeks Princeton will play in the Ivy Tournament, or “Wildcard Weekend 15s.” The winner of the tournament earns an automatic bid to the USA Rugby D1AA Round of 16 and the chance to compete for a national title.

“A lot of it depends on who’s healthy and also how the team is working together. We have a very young team this year — we only have three starting seniors and we’ve had a couple of key injuries,” Martin said. “I think Ireland helped a lot because our team became more comfortable playing together. It’s important to get the new guys together to learn the sport.”

Quick Takes

The 2014 rowing season got off to a successful start for Princeton this weekend at Lake Carnegie. The men’s heavyweight team beat out both Syracuse and Georgetown, and the men’s lightweight squad took first in a win over the Hoyas as well. The women’s open team finished three seconds behind Brown and 10 seconds ahead of Michigan State to take second in its race, while the women’s lightweight team had the weekend off in preparation for next week’s San Diego Crew Classic.

Women’s tennis kicked off its Ivy League season this weekend, beating Penn 5-2 at Jadwin Gymnasium. The match marks the sixth straight victory for Princeton against the Quakers. The Tigers are 12-5 overall.

Junior Erin McMunn scored four goals in the women’s lacrosse team’s 10-7 overtime victory over Cornell, the program’s 400th victory. The win is the Tigers’ fifth in a row, a streak they hope to continue against Yale next weekend at home. Princeton leads all Ivy teams in scoring with 120 goals in nine games.

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