Tour Diary #8 - June 16th 2017

Just like that, our time in New Zealand has come to an end. Scott and Vlad flew out to San Francisco this morning, Joe departed for Virginia this afternoon, and Alex leaves for New York later this evening. We didn’t train much over the last few days, instead focusing on strengthening the relationships we have built over the course of our stay. On Tuesday, St. Paul’s organized a farewell dinner for us, Tama, and all of the parents, administrators, and friends who have made this program such a success. The school was kind enough to give each of us a St. Paul’s tie and a credit in the school store to purchase some St. Paul’s apparel. Overall, we’ve had a wonderful time in New Zealand. Our rugby and fitness have improved markedly, as has our understanding of a vibrant culture once unfamiliar. We’d like to thank Greg McWilliams, Warren Heffelfinger and the YMRFC alumni, the faculty of St. Paul’s and the University of Waikato, and the Hamilton families who welcomed us into their community. In particular, we’d like to thank Tama Dean and his son, Temaia, for putting up with us for nearly five weeks in their home. We hope you have enjoyed keeping up with our blog, and we thank you for your continued support of Yale Rugby.

Signing off for the last time, Alex O’Neill 2020

Tour Diary #7 - June 11th 2017

Another fantastic week in NZ. Joe went to Queenstown, where he had the opportunity to hike up some of the most beautiful mountains in the country. The rest of us spent the beginning of the week training and exploring Hamilton. Everyone is in much better shape than when we arrived a month ago. On Thursday, we visited the Waitomo Caves for a four-hour expedition through rock formations at around 200 feet below sea level. Later today (Sunday), we're going to surf at a historic beach that's less than an hour from Hamilton. Overall, it's been a fantastic trip. We'll send in one more post on the last day, but with four days left, our New Zealand travels are almost over.

Tour Diary #6 - June 6th 2017

This has been one of the most thrilling weekends yet. After a tour of the Chiefs’ grounds that included stops at the player tunnels, the press box, and even the sidelines of the field, we had the pleasure of taking in a great rugby match. The Chiefs beat the Australian Waratahs 46-31 largely on the backs of winger James Lowe (three tries), halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow (two tries), and fullback Damian McKenzie, who showed off some incredible playmaking skills. After the match we headed to Pauanui, where we spent two nights enjoying great food and favorable conditions for boating, hiking, and relaxing on the waterfront. Looking forward, this week is also packed. We’ll be spending a lot of time in the gym with Tama, but Joe and Scott will be otherwise engaged for the next few days. Joe is in Queenstown, while Scott will spend two days at a large local company learning the ropes and helping out where he can. We’ve got some exciting day trips planned for later in the week, and we’ll let you know how they go in the next post.

Tour Diary #5 - June 2nd 2017

This week has been another exciting period for the Yale Rugby boys. All of us spent time with host families from St Paul’s this week learning about New Zealand family life. Vlad and Scott stayed in the middle of Hamilton, while Joe and Alex boarded with families in the surrounding farmland. Yesterday (Friday), we went to the University of Waikato for some high performance testing of our strength, speed, aerobic efficiency, reaction abilities, and other qualities. Having this information will allow us to customize training programs that we can bring back to New Haven. Today is going to be packed - we’re getting a tour of Waikato Stadium, where the Chiefs play, and afterwards we’ll watch the team play the Warratahs. As soon as that ends, we’re heading to a host family’s home on the beach in Pauanui. We’ll let you know how those activities go in the next post.

Tour Diary #4 - May 28th 2017

Rotorua was great fun for the guys. We went boating on Lake Tarawera for a few hours, complete with “biscuiting” (tubing) and a trip to the famous geothermal pools. Before we left, we visited the Rotorua luge course and rode the mountain gondola. A great time in a beautiful small town. We returned to Hamilton earlier this evening and met the host families we’ll be staying with for the next week. Alex and Joe are posted with the First XV halfbacks, Luke and Connor. Scott and Vlad are staying with a friend of the St. Paul’s program. We’re looking forward to getting to know the team better and to experiencing New Zealand family life. The next few days won’t be particularly busy outside of team trainings and lifts at the University gym. It should be a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in NZ culture and become better rugby players.

Tour Diary #3 - May 24th 2017

A packed week for the boys. Over the weekend, we visited a Maori marae (lodge) for an overnight visit. Maori students taught us a haka and other traditional cultural practices. On Saturday, we took in a club game between the Melville and Marist clubs. This week has been filled with important meetings to help provide a stronger foundation for our training. We got to meet with Wayne Smith, the renowned All-Blacks coach on Tuesday, as well as several members of the Chiefs staff. All the while, we’ve been training with the St. Paul’s XV, the Waikato U21s, and other groups as arranged by Tama. Looking forward, we’ve got a trip to Rotorua and then home stays next week. More on those in the next post.

Tour Diary #2 - May 18th 2017

The boys have spent the last few days getting to know Hamilton and training with local teams. We have been helping Tama and other coaches run boxing and sprinting drills for the younger St. Paul's rugby players in early mornings and then doing our own lifts and trainings during and after the school day. The highlight of our experience with the school so far was the afternoon we spent watching a lively Haka competition between the seven student houses. We also observed the University of Waikato's U-21 side's training, which we plan to join on Monday. Yesterday, we met with local business leaders to discuss establishing a short-term internship program for Yale students. Today, Friday, is a really big day for us: after a morning training session with Tama, we will attend St. Paul's assembly, where the school will formally welcome us. This afternoon, we leave for an overnight stay at a Marae, a traditional Maori residence. We'll keep you updated as our trip continues.

Tour Diary #1 - May 15th 2017

The boys have finally arrived in New Zealand. Scott and Vlad came in yesterday, and while they were participating in a fitness session with the St Paul's 1st side early this morning, Alex and Joe made the drive from Auckland to Hamilton with Tama. Our day as a unit began at the Chiefs practice, where we chatted with some players and coaches about their upcoming trip to Fiji to play the Crusaders. We then went to lunch at the school, where we got to meet the team in anticipation of our first practice this afternoon. Vlad promises that he will eventually start eating normal quantities of food - we'll update this storyline as the trip progresses. This evening, the boys trained with the St Paul's team and got personalized scrum coaching from Kane Hames, a prop for the Chiefs. We also met the Korean national side and got a chance to mingle with their players and coaches. It's going to be an early night for us as we're still jet lagged and have fitness training early tomorrow morning. After such an exciting first day, we can't wait to see what the rest of the trip holds for us.