FULL-BACK ADAM D’ARCY will be giving supporters an insight into life, the characters and the games at Ulster Rugby this season.
The 26-year-old Australian continues his pre-season training with the province in France this week, ahead of a friendly match, on 9 August, against Bayonne.
In today’s diary entry, D’Arcy shares with TheScore.ie, and the province’s website, discusses the touring lifestyle, meeting young fans at City of Derry Rugby Club, and the shame he felt in seeing his compatriot, Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe, making poor fashion choices on the BBC.
It’s been a busy few weeks down at Newforge Lane. Pre-season is drawing to a close and towards the first of three trial games, as reality sets in that season 2012-2013 kicks off in less than a month.
We are now at ‘camp’ phase, and for us that means a five-day training retreat to Cabpreton, France, a small seaside town in the Basque country near Biarritz.
I know what you’re all thinking – ‘sounds like a nice little holiday, you rugby boys have it so easy… ”. Well, if double training sessions daily culminating in a match against Top14 side Bayonne sounds easy, I’d say I just saw Declan Fitzpatrick drop a goal from 55 metres out into the wind at Ravenhill. Blindfolded!
Camp gives us a chance to get away from our base in Belfast and bring the six weeks of hard training together into a match situation. It also gives individuals the first chance to stake their claim for a spot in the team.
More importantly it gives us all the opportunity to escape the Olympic commentary of ex-swimmer Ian Thorpe, whose checkered sweater vests and over exaggerated facial expressions have become an unwelcome guest in my living room over the past week.
Ian Thorpe: A chequered history of fashion. (Credit: Independent.co.uk)
The Irish touring contingent have rejoined us, and a couple of them arrived sporting new additions that definitely raised a few eyebrows.
Firstly, Paul Marshall was wearing some sort of bionic arm contraption that looked like it should have its own remote control. In fact it was just a brace to aid his recovery post elbow surgery. Everybody turns pale when he removes it as his arm is now twice as small as Federer’s non racket-bearing arm.
Secondly, Andrew Trimble rode into training (his shimmering golden mullet flapping in the breeze) on a multicoloured bicycle that must have been built by the Oompa Loompa’s from Willy Wonka.
I was not surprised when he said he designed it himself, he’d even had it initialed, just on the off chance that someone else in Belfast rides one exactly the same. Not likely I thought.
Much to everybody’s delight, Mick Ennis, our kit manager, Ulster’s very own Willy Wonka, had also returned to training. Mick is best known for his pre-training food spreads that have often been known to hold the start time of training back as guys hover over the buffet of treats chatting over a cup of coffee and a jaffa cake.
Mick was temporarily silenced last season, as there was a crackdown on how healthy and training suitable these sweets were. After a couple of weeks of sugar free training sessions, they made a triumphant return, bigger and better than ever. It was like Mick had raided Chris Henry’s pockets and displayed them for everyone’s pleasure.
There were however a few items that the authorities must have requested been included but didn’t get the response they had hoped. I wonder what you’d pick, a lightly salted peanut that’s been carefully coated in dairy milk chocolate, or a grape.
Derry loves Tommy, Tommy loves Derry
We also got the chance to hold an open training session at City of Derry Rugby Club. It should have been renamed Tommy Bowe’s open training session at City of Derry Rugby Club, as it was plain to see who the crowd favourite was when the coach pulled up to the oval.
He was mobbed everywhere he went and not just by the kids. It was amazing to see how many mid 30 year old women City of Derry had signed up for the coming season. I even saw a woman pushing an empty pram circling Tommy like a shark. You’re not fooling anyone love!
Returning hero: Tommy Bowe with young City of Derry players. (©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd)
It was great to see the future of Ulster Rugby showcasing their skills and the future looks bright indeed. Hopefully we get the chance to visit some more clubs throughout the year.
Another excursion that took us away from Newforge was a day of shooting, problem-solving and team-building at Ballykindler Army Base, where we learnt among other things, that none of us would make great army troops.
I think the sergeants had the same thought as they accompanied my group into a real life simulation of rescuing one of our own, who was being held hostage in an enemy compound.
We entered the compound, and within five minutes were more concerned about firing blanks out the window than rescuing the hostage. It actually got to the point where we were all standing round arguing who would carry the hostage out, and didn’t even notice him get up and walk out the door himself.
So the bags are packed ready to depart for camp today, it’s going to be a tough few days but hopefully I can sneak in a few coffees and ocean swims during training in the warm sunshine. You’re right; being a pro rugby player is not all that bad.