Our proud blogger Kevin Eason finally plays his first game of rugby
This is a Rugby World advertorial.
In the fourth and final part of the series in conjunction with Windows 10 and written in his own words, Rugby World welcomes #therugbybeginner.
I wake and open one eye. Outside it’s misty and the sun is threatening to break through. As the brain starts to click into gear, I’m hit by a jolt. Today is game day. Within minutes, I’m showered and changed. Sitting with my son at the breakfast table checking my social feeds on my Surface Pro 3, trying to keep my mind off the battering I’ll be taking later.
With a kitbag full of more gear than I’d probably ever need, I walked into Westcliff RFC clubhouse to be greeted by a wall of silver; cups, trophies and statuettes of rugby players who’d forged the history of the club stared back at me through the glass trophy cabinet. No pressure, I thought.
As I entered the changing room, Westcliff’s home shirts were piled in a heap on the floor. I made straight for the quiet corner of the dressing room, mumbling my hellos to my fellow team-mates. Lucas the vice captain and stand-in captain for today’s game beckoned me over and asked me to pull up the moves he’d showed me at training on the Surface Pro 3 for one last refresher session.
Using the Surface Pen, Lucas pulled up Microsoft Edge, found a clip of the All Blacks from the Rugby World Cup final and drew the lines of running and defensive sets he wanted. ‘Gainline’, ‘front-foot ball’, ‘kick-chase’. He was carrying on like I was actually playing. I had to ask him to repeat the line-up when my name was mentioned. Oh lord, I was actually starting. This is really happening!
The changing room started to fill up with fellow squad members. With just two training sessions under my belt I was playing ahead of other far better players than me. Was this some kind of wind-up?
I joked about starting a game with such little experience, hoping that someone would pat me on the back and say it was just a bit of banter. Sadly, the punchline never came. “This is what rugby’s all about, mate. You’ve got to start somewhere, haven’t you? We’ll look after you.” The boys were so cheerful that it actually gave me some newfound confidence ahead of the game. It instantly made me feel part of the team.
Before this I’d played for loads of Sunday league football teams where I’d had to train for months before even coming on as sub.
Rugby seemed to have a special camaraderie that I’d not experienced in other sports. I head out to the pitch filled with optimism and healthy dose of pre-match nerves. Okay, I felt sick…
Before kick-off we linked arms in a circle and the captain ran over our roles slapping us on the back, geeing us up. Our togetherness turned into passion. The team-talk had done the job. We were ready. I can’t wait for the whistle.
With that, we’re off. The centres and fullback constantly shout instructions to help me out with my positioning. I’m learning on the job and soaking it all up. It’s sink or swim. I touch the ball a few times in the first-half, make a few passes and even a few tackles. I’m clattered into the mud on a few occasions but I’m holding my own.
After taking on some liquid at the break and catching some breath, we run over some tactics for the second-half with all the replacements shouting their support.
Lucas asked me how I felt? “Like a little kid at Christmas.” I replied. He reminded me of what we went through on the Surface Pro 3 and the calls I should be looking out for.
The second-half flew by as quickly as the first and despite more touches, I’m disappointed not to get on the score sheet. When the final whistle goes, I’m chuffed. I’d got through my first ever game of rugby without any broken bones! The boys shouted ‘well done, Kev,” and said I hadn’t looked out of place. They were being kind.
Sadly, we lost, but leaving the pitch we were clapped and cheered through a tunnel by our rivals, Chelmsford RFC, before we returned the gesture. Minutes earlier we’d been trying to knock each other into next week!
Showered and changed, we went into the clubhouse for a beer with the opposition and had a laugh. I was really beginning to take to this strange game. In fact, I wish I’d taken it up years ago!
So that’s it. My Windows 10 and Rugby World assignment completed. From complete beginner to rugby devotee in a matter of weeks. All I could say was a thanks to the World Cup, Windows 10, Rugby world and everyone at Westcliff Rugby Club for their patience and kindness.
Now to get some rest and prepare for next week’s training with my L-plates off. No regrets.