Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Q&A With JAA Ruairi Van Raalte

The Junior All-Americans are back from the Junior World Rugby Trophy. They did get the results they wanted but they did gain a lot of experience. One of those gaining experience is Ruairi Van Raalte. The England-raised hooker played for the Wasps Academy, Oxfordshire, and the Henley Hawks. He also played for the England Lambs U-18 teams eight times. Last year he made the move to play with the Utiku Old Boys and will be playing with Wanganui in the Heartland Championship. 

We caught up with Ruairi to get his thoughts on the JWRT and his career. 

TIAR: What was the JWRT experience like?

Ruairi Van Raalte: It was a great experience for me. I was called in late to the squad, so first off it was a great honour to be selected for the USA side. I was a newcomer to the squad, so it was great to get stuck in and gel together - we had great team spirit.

Take the jump to read more.

The two weeks in Zimbabwe was intense and highly professional, but we had a little down time, so we explored a bit of Harare which is a very friendly and welcoming city. There were great crowds at all of the games, and everyone seemed to take a keen interest in the tournament. It was pretty surreal being asked for photos, selfies and autographs!

I also learned some new skills and was another chance to play international footy.

TIAR: You guys played well at times but still fell a little short. What do you think was the difference?

RVR: We did well in a lot of scenarios on the paddock and worked very hard, but it was a side that came together late. We gelled well but we were against sides who have been playing with each other for years. At our last match against Spain, we were only 2 points short of making the final v. Samoa, so this side has great International potential.

TIAR: You've played for teams in England and New Zealand. Has does the JWRT standard compare?

RVR: I thought the standard at the JWRT was very high and we played against some high quality teams and players. In NZ we play very open and fast rugby, and the rugby at the JWRT was more methodical - it's just a different style rather than different standard. I've been playing with and against a lot of professionals and semi-pros (farmers, policemen and the likes) - so its a hard man's game here.

TIAR: You grew up in England and played for the England Lambs. What made you want to play in New Zealand?

RVR: My mother is from NZ, and being brought up in a rugby family, I always saw NZ as a great opportunity to play senior rugby at the highest level, with some top players and top coaches in the world.

I've been here 10 months and it has really brought my rugby to the next level. I thought I would only stay one year, but I am planning on staying now because I'm enjoying my rugby here.

TIAR: What made you want to play for the Junior All-Americans?

RVR: I was born in New York City and much of my family still lives there. I always wanted to represent the USA, and there is no bigger honour then to be selected to play international footy.

TIAR: How did your move to Wanganui come about?

RVR: I was identified through my club team, Utiku Old Boys, and seeming played well enough to be selected. Working really hard off the field this offseason has really helped too.

TIAR: Describe your game for fans.

RVR: I'm a modern breed of hooker who plays more like a loose forward - it's a reflection of my experience also playing as a centre, flanker and number 8 over the years. I like to use my speed and make turnovers at the breakdown.

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