Women can taste irish cream: Rugby team heads to Ireland for exhibition
By Ian Ross
Continuing in the Western tradition of spreading goodwill and gaining experience on the international sports scene, the Mustang women's rugby team is heading to Ireland over the reading week holiday.
Acting as ambassadors to Canadian athletics, 25 members of the women's roster will be leaving on Feb. 19 for 10 days during which the team will compete against five competitive Irish rugby teams in Dublin, Clane, Limerick and Nengh.
Head coach Natascha Wesch, also a member of the Canadian national team, has full knowledge of the benefits that an athlete can gain with the experience of international competition.
"We always see the same teams, so to see some different styles of play should greatly benefit the team," Wesch said. "The competition will be top notch. There are a couple of Irish national players on the teams that we will face."
Coming off the team's most successful season, a bronze medal performance at the Ontario championships, the team will take advantage of the off-season competitive action to re-work their lineup for the upcoming year. With several of the team's top players giving their final bow as members of the varsity team in Ireland, the tour will give many of the team's less experienced players the opportunity to display and practice their skills at a competitive level without fear of team standings.
"Most of the rookies don't have a lot of experience, so they can take what they've learned without the stress of university competition," veteran Jodie Miller said on the team's opportunity to grow closer together during the off-season.
This overseas trip will not be the first for the team, which travelled to Scotland and England in 1996.
"We stayed with families during our last trip so we got to experience their culture and lifestyle up close," said Miller, a member of the 1996 rugby tour. She added that the culture is very different from what she is used to in Canada.
Although the experience of the Great Britain tour was highly reviewed by its participating members, Wesch said the decision for a change in venue for this tour was largely based on stories from the Western men's team, which journeyed to Ireland last spring.
"The girls are really excited," she said. "This is going to be an unbelievable experience for them."
While the trip promises to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of the athletes, adventure has proven to carry an expensive price tag. Wesch said the team has been busy fund-raising in the months leading up to their tour, in hopes of bringing down the cost for each individual athlete.
"The trip should be fun but right now there are a lot of little things that need to get done to be ready," Miller said.