Rugby Reflections Part I

This blog begins to reflect on one of my favourite memories from the MBA, the 2012 World MBA Rugby Tournament. I am humbled to offer my thoughts and perspectives from the trip as an international student at UCD Smurfit with no previous rugby experience just along for the ride. As a quick recap, this is an annual tournament hosted by Duke University for the last 30 years in Danville, Va. which attracts over 700 players representing the top business schools across the globe to compete in the prestigious rugby championship. There is a men’s tackle tournament and a separate women’s touch league.  UCD fielded both a men’s and women’s team in the 2012 tournament. Somehow I found myself on the team (see my previous blog) and the stories review the beginning of the trip while still maintaining the Rugby player credo of “what happens on the rugby tour stays on the rugby tour”.

North Carolina Arrival

The MBA had its stressful moments but I never experienced a sleepless night like the one before leaving for the rugby tournament. I recorded a brief video before the trip espousing my excitement for our rugby fundraising website, but as I collapsed in bed after packing my gear, the weight of the moment suddenly hit me like a vicious rugby tackle. I was about to travel back to the States to participate in a sport I still knew little about with teammates I hardly knew. What was I doing? Would I injure myself or worst yet embarrass the team? Throughout the year I had overcome questions around how to motivate employees, calculating required break-even units produced, and evaluating industry attractiveness; however I was left grappling with the upcoming rugby challenges.

After a restless night I woke up at 6am (local time) in Ireland and soon found myself arriving in the Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina around 5:30pm ET. I was joined with approximately 40 of my rugby teammates with bags all accounted for and everyone in good form. The excitement resonated with all the players having made the sacrifice to take time off from their studies at UCD Smurfit and participate in the 2012 MBA World Rugby tournament. However, I can confidently state that no one enjoyed being in North Carolina more than me as I was welcomed by my lovely wife and our friends from the area. As I walked off the plane I soon noticed a large “Welcome UCD Banner” held up by my friends and even a hand drawn poster from one of their 2-year-old daughters to sweeten the welcome. The scene was simply wonderful and I was delighted that my Irish teammates were exposed to Southern Hospitality so early in our adventure.

Our Greeting Party!

We then hopped in a bio-diesel powered van with our friendly driver Mark who drove us to Danville for our first team dinner. With about 40 total people on the trip it can be challenging to remember all the names and faces, but the night out allowed us all to bond and relax after a full day of travel. After stuffing myself with a plate full of ribs and sirloin steak, I smiled knowing I was back in the South sharing the moment with new teammates and friends. Now the only thing left to do was to start playing…

UCD MBA Rugby Team Lands in RDU


– Justin Thomas, Full-time MBA 2011/12