More than 3,400 miles separated Oxford’s rugby team from its university, yet the Tigers made the team feel as if it was right in its own backyard.
The Princeton men’s rugby team hosted the Oxford Blues on Thursday. The teams took the pitch together for a scrimmage before heading back to campus to spend some time together as newly discovered friends. The Oxford players got a chance to immerse themselves in Princeton’s history and culture while sharing some of their own stories with the Tigers. “This is a unique and great opportunity to get to meet some guys from across the pond and make some great friendships,” said senior captain Billy Haynes.
Men’s rugby is no stranger to playing teams from outside the United States. Last year, the team spent a week in South Africa, where it played various teams from the area and learned more about the gameplay and culture of their host country. Now, Princeton is returning the favor and hosting the men from Oxford during their first week in the United States.
“They were very gracious hosts,” said Oxford player Sam Miller.
The Oxford team began its tour of the East Coast almost a week ago. It has visited several university campuses — including Harvard and Yale — as they have toured and trained for their season in England. The team stayed in Princeton through Friday morning before departing for Philadelphia to play the All American team this Saturday.
“We were really impressed with the Princeton setup,” commented Miller. “Definitely some of the best we have seen on our trip so far.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers have a few more days of preparation and practice before they take on the University of Pennsylvania in their first Ivy League match of the season next Saturday. The Tigers entered the preseason behind other Ivy League teams due to the later start date of classes. However, the team has been working hard throughout September, making up for lost time.
“We’ve been coming out here and working hard all preseason,” senior captain Mark Goldstein stated one day after practice. "We've been out here getting better as a team each day and the results are really starting to show".
“We really enjoyed the Princeton passion and the defense that they had on display; the tackling was really good — especially for the teams we have played,” commented Ed Elvin of the Blues.
The teams met at Richardson Field for a joint practice and scrimmage Thursday afternoon. There, Princeton and Oxford worked together on line-outs, passing, and other drills before playing a simulated game during the second half of practice. Along the way, Princeton picked up many tips from both the players and coaches of Oxford. The training that the players received from the highly experienced team will be valuable for the upcoming Ivy League season. “It was a great experience even to watch,” said sophomore Jarrett Stowe. “I think we learned so much in just these few hours that will help us throughout the season.”
Although there was no score recorded during the game, Princeton put up a good fight against the Blues’ tough competition. “They were definitely on another level than some of the other teams we played,” said Elvin.
Beyond the game itself, the Tigers created a memorable experience for both teams involved. Even something as simple as a dining hall guest swipe made for a great bonding experience for both the Princeton and Oxford players, providing the foundation for friendships that may continue for years to come