Australian rugby team trains at ND
Megan Valley | Tuesday, September 1, 2015
The Australian national rugby union team, nicknamed the Wallabies, arrived in South Bend on Saturday and will be training on campus through Thursday. The squad, which is currently ranked third in the world, behind New Zealand and Ireland, will then travel to Chicago for a test match at Soldier Field against the 16th-ranked USA Eagles on Saturday night.
Members from both the Notre Dame men and women’s club rugby teams attended Monday night’s practice with their coaches. Sophomore Rachael Shey, a member of the women’s club rugby team, said although the practice was optional for Notre Dame players, watching with her coach was a beneficial learning experience.
“Our coach is here for the practice. He’s here to network and teach us what they’re doing,” she said.
Senior Andy Preising, captain and president of the men’s club rugby team, said Saturday’s game would be a test for the Eagles.
“They’ve got a game on Saturday, which unfortunately is at the same time as the Texas game,” Preising said. “It’s going to be a big test for the U.S., definitely. We had our first international test in America last year — we played the All Blacks [New Zealand’s national rugby union team].”
This will only be the fourth time the Wallabies have played in the U.S. and the first time they’ve played the Eagles in nearly 40 years. Preising says the team will not practice on Notre Dame’s Stinson Rugby Field but instead on the field near Stepan Center.
“We’ve opened up our facilities to them. They’re not actually going to be playing much on our field because it’s turf and Soldier Field is grass,” he said.
Director of Sports Science Matt Howley is from Australia and Kevin Ricks, associate athletic trainer, said Howley was part of why the Wallabies got into contact with Notre Dame.
“They were scheduled to play in Chicago and were already looking for a place nearby to practice and train before the match,” Ricks said.
While Notre Dame players will probably not have the opportunity to interact much with the Wallabies, Ricks said the Irish athletic staff are expected to interact with the team’s support staff of therapists, doctors and strength coaches. The Australian staff is considered to be one of the most advanced in the world in terms of sports science, and they will be working with Irish strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and nutritionists.
After the Wallabies play in Chicago, the squad will return to Notre Dame for more training before going off to London on Sept. 13 to compete in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Their first game is Sept. 23 against Fiji.