This is not the first time that Dublin University’s rugby team, Trinity Football Club, has served as a training ground for American rugby players.
Current Eagle Scott LaValla captained Trinity and played there for four years. Jacon Waasdorp, Volney Rouse and Brian Barnard all stopped at Trinity on their way to the national team.
But this year Trinity is especially heavy in USA influence. Two recent USA age-grade standouts and one current Eagle are only the beginning.
This past weekend, Trinity beat Oxford University (playing without Cal grad Jason Law) 7-6 in a wet, dour, mistake-strewn game.
USA prop Shawn Pittman, who started playing for Chuckanut in Washington state, where Trinity Head Coach Tony Smeeth used to coach, is the one overseas non-student the club can carry. He started at tighthead for Trinity.
For most of the season Pittman has been coming on as an impact sub, as Smeeth has some young in-school props who need time as well. But that game time Pittman is getting is important for the young Eagle front-rower. Staying at the house of the USA scrum coach, Derek Dowling, doesn’t hurt, either.
“Shawn is an excellent impact player for us,” said Smeeth.
Also in the front row is Cameron Falcon. The former LSU player who was instrumental in the USA U20s winning the 2012 Junior World Rugby Trophy, has had a very promising start, moving up from the U21s into the 1st XV.
“Cam has been great for us,” said Smeeth. “He came in strong, but not as match fit as he should be. He has knocked off 3-4 kgs (7-9 lbs) and is now around 106kg (234lbs). He is an excellent thrower. He invariably comes on at half time or just after. He loves the everyday exposure to quality rugby and we hope he can work out a way to study here next year.”
The revelation about Falcon’s throwing is no revelation. The USA U20s lineout was easily the most accurate at the 2012 JWRT, and Falcon was a huge part of that.
So, in fact, was Pierce Dargan. The lock/flanker with a US-born mother and Irish father is pursuing the same coursework as Falcon, and in fact the two are living with Dargan’s family in Dublin.
Dargan has also pushed his way up the ranks. Not projected to play past the U21s, said Smeeth, “he has stepped up and not missed a game at #6 this season. He is a complete gamer, is always on the ball and is in great condition. He was probably our best player in the Colours match [against University College Dublin] against an all-Leinster back row.”
Dargan, like Pittman, started in the match against Oxford this past weekend.
Trinity has two more players with USA connections. Will Scott is a 6-5, 230 No. 8/lock who started at second row on Saturday.
“He is a fine footballer,” said Smeeth. “He would be an eightman at the next level. He has great skills, very agile in the Cam Dolan mold, and developing all the time.”
And Conor Kearns is a US-born fullback/center who is returning from training with the USA U20s in this last week's camp in Las Vegas, has played for Munster U20s, and now plays on the Trinity U21s. Smeeth expects to see him on the Trinity 1sts next year, and possibly sooner.
All five could feature, then, in Trinity’s end-of-season run. They have five games left in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B and stand 3rd, with a shot at promotion to DIA.