The Trinity players came out in full force, dominating the initial play, and keeping up an impressive speed against the professional side of Leinster. This was a particularly special evening for Head Coach Tony Smeeth, who has been working with DUFC for 25 years. He has never seen anything like this happen before. “What I love is, the Leinster guys seem to be enjoying it, I thought it would be a bit of a chore for them, but it wasn’t, I mean look at them,” he says, pointing to Joe McCarthy, a Global Business student as well as a phenomenal 2023 World Cup forward. After a productive session Joe said “it’s good to come back to train here, because I played here in College and all the way up, so it’s really cool to come back … a lot of us here are just back from the World Cup, so this is our first week integrating back in”. He went on to say that this sort of thing was good for the club, helping the game grow is incredibly important for Leinster, who are “looking to start the season off well, with everyone back in”.
The session started off with a brief from the coaches. Despite not advertising the session, there was a large and excited crowd of students and visitors. Next to me was an American who played here 48 years ago. He comes back as frequently as possible, always making sure to catch up with the Trinity rugby scene. He described the game as something verging on artistic, saying it was beautiful to watch at this level. He could not believe how long it had been since his time and commented on the huge amount of talent on both sides. He was in good company with Provost Linda Doyle, who had also come to watch this exhibition of truly fantastic rugby.
The players started off with live drills, and some unstructured play, which has become an increasingly essential feature of training. While the well oiled sequences are useful for efficient play, and maximum scoring potential, the teams that dominate the stage of today’s rugby are those who have honed skills in the unpredictable, unstructured play. They must react quickly to whatever is thrown at them under immense game pressure. A serious level of skill is needed for this and it was an impressive display of talent.
Spirits were high after the session. Normally when Leinster head to other clubs, “they have been very much their second string, where as they had all their Irish players here tonight, it made it very good,” said Smeeth, with the only real difference being the endurance of stamina throughout the session, where the professional players undoubtedly took the lead. Having the full squad back together was fantastic. He proudly said that Trinity started off on fire: “We came out really good, but it’s actually keeping it there, you know, and that’s the difference, obviously they are pro, they are full time, whereas we are more two three nights a week, we do our gym, but they are top class, they are world class!” Despite this, the evening was most certainly not mismatched – McCarthy noted that the Trinity team “challenged us a good bit” and played well.
The session is a great new initiative, forcing the University team to play to their full potential, against a professional side. Trinity are now one of the top five teams, playing in the highest division of non-professional Rugby in Ireland. Alongside this, Leinster had five of the World 15 for the year, picked after the World Cup. The Trinity players left impressed with the sheer speed of the Leinster side, whose prowess and capability made watching rugby seem nothing short of exhilarating. Prospects are looking high for a highly anticipated game on Saturday.