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Touring is Back: IRT Takes Marin to Italy

irish rugby tours

Touring is Back: IRT Takes Marin to Italy

Marin, in white and red, with Villorba in the mud in Treviso.

The Marin Highlanders will get back into league play and will be nicely poised to do so after a tour to Italy for just over a week during this month.

"We try to do an international tour every other year," said Marin Head Coach John Vantress. "Irish Rugby Tours has been handling our tours for close to 10 years and they do a fantastic job. Unlike American football or basketball, we coach a sport that most of our players do not watch on TV.  A lot of our players have never seen what rugby played at a high level looks like. Our goals are pretty simple—Have Fun, Get Better, and become a Student  of the Game."

Irish Rugby Tours actually runs tours in many countries, not just Ireland. They help teams tour Spain, Portugal, the UK, and New Zealand, as just a few examples. Teams play competitive games—IRT's research into what opponents will give good opposition is a key part of what they do—have coaching sessions, and go on cultural and sightseeing trips.

Off to Italy

This time, Marin went to Italy. In an eight-day period the Highlanders boys team played three games, against U.S. Primavera-Rome, Firenze Rugby 1931-Florence, and Villorba Rugby-Treviso, and enjoyed two training sessions with professional coaches. They were also able to watch to two professional matches.

Irish Rugby Tours at NAI 7s in Utah
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Rugby Tours to Italy - Irish Rugby Tours
from Irish Rugby Tours on Vimeo.

"The Italian U19 teams provided excellent competition and memorable third-half socials afterwards," said Vantress. "When you combine this with sightseeing and historical tours of three of the most beautiful and historically influential cities in western history, it's hard to see this as anything but a big win for the boys."

Touring Returns

Touring was of course halted for much of 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit. Irish Rugby Tours was in the middle of preparing teams from the USA for tours, and even had some teams on tour around mid-March when rugby activities started to shut down. What IRT did was help those on-tour teams complete their tours and get home, and then worked with teams that had booked tours to keep their tour's value and simply delay the trip. Slowly tours started to come back and they are full on now. St. Thomas Aquinas, whose tour was called off almost as players and coaches and parents were driving to the airport in 2020, will be having their tour now, with deposits and tickets preserved from their 2020 plans.

Good for Players, Good for Team

For Main, the timing was good as 2022 was their next tour year anyway. And getting to another country and experiencing it was hugely beneficial for the players.

"The tour was an awesome trip in general and even better for team bonding," said Marin forwards captain Wyatt O'Connor. "It couldn’t have been scheduled at a better time; the time we spent together training and playing in Italy has set the bar high for our season. We hope to build on the intensity gained from the trip and are looking forward to our first league game this weekend."

"The Italy trip was the exact right catalyst to create the cohesiveness our team needed," added Marin backs captain Hudson Lavinsky. "The team grew immensely closer and our chemistry transferred directly into our games. It is awesome to see how the team has changed since we’ve returned,  there is a huge difference in our intensity and engagement levels during practices and I can’t wait to let everything we’ve learned loose during our next games. It was amazing to see and experience just how much rugby means to people in other countries and to be able to feel a part of that. We were either touring or playing rugby the entire trip so it was also a huge test to our mental toughness because each day was a grind. But it felt rewarding and special to go through those long days, then get to play a rugby game and finish the day with a meal next to your opponent’s. The entire trip was super special and I will not forget it for the rest of my life."

For more about Irish Rugby Tours, go to irishrugbytours.com