By Mike Petri
The Eagles touched down in Romania at 2:30AM on Monday morning after a 14 hour travel day. An evening kickoff and tough loss to a physical Tonga team the night before certainly didn't help make the traveling any more pleasant. We are also traveling a bit light as several players were released early from camp leaving only 23 players to play our final game of the series. Nonetheless, it was probably a good time for everyone to get out of Wales as the rugby mood in that country was beginning to sour following their two losses to Argentina and Samoa!
Our late arrival gave us the opportunity to sleep in on Monday morning before our first practice that afternoon in Bucharest. The practice fields are directly next to the stadium and although it isn't exceptionally large it is a great facility. There are both grass and turf fields as well as a weight room, locker room, and small meeting rooms.
We made use of the weight room on Tuesday afternoon as we had a split skills and weights session. While the forwards worked on lineouts the back lifted and then we switched, allowing the forwards to throw around some weights and the backs to run through some drills to continue to work on our handling and tactical decision making. So it is now Wednesday afternoon in Bucharest and we have already had two team sessions, skills, and weights as well as several meetings to review Tonga and introduce Romania. We are definitely working hard to right the ship after losing a winnable game that we let slip right through our grasp.
Of course, as always, we were given a midweek day off on Wednesday to allow our bodies to recover so that we recharge our batteries heading into the home stretch. When thinking about Romania, most Americans would arguably equate it with gymnasts, wrestlers, weight-lifters (or just simply the top contestants on The World's Strongest Man competition), and, of course, vampires. We figured that since we are so close why not take a trip to see the birthplace of the boss-man vampire himself, Count Dracula.
So, some guys opted to stay in or near the hotel in Bucharest while a small group of others decided to take a trip to Transylvania to visit Dracula's Castle (Bran Castle). The fog in the mountains surrounding the castle was fitting and added to the eerie nature of the entire adventure. Although the castle itself was not much different than others that can be found in the UK (it actually reminds me of Caerphilly Castle in Wales) it was still a cool experience to be there.
As a kid I would have never believed that one day I'd find myself at the Count's house! But once again rugby has taken me to a place I never though I'd otherwise go.
Paul Emerick was the man of the hour on the trip making several entertaining "Count" comments and jokes from Sesame Street. Eric Fry made the trip wearing sandals and shorts despite the fact that it was freezing outside so naturally every street merchant tried to sell him sheep-skin socks and shoes! Mr. Fry did not give in though and insisted he was not cold despite the arctic temperatures.
So far it's been a good week in Romania and it was good to have a change of scenery after two weeks in North Wales, even if that scenery is drastically different from our everyday accustomed lifestyles. We kick off Saturday afternoon at 4:00PM local time here in Romania (9:00AM EST) to complete our November test series. We've been working hard and remained positive so that everyone is switched on to make sure we end this series not only on a high note but also with a winning 2-1 record.
On a final note, tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in Romania for our team so we would like to wish all of our families, friends, and loved ones back home a Happy Thanksgiving. We certainly wish we could be there to share it with them but appreciate their unwavering support. It is always difficult to be away from family but this is especially true on holidays. However, we wouldn't be able to follow our passions and be here having the opportunity to represent our country if not for our support, love, and commitment from everyone back home. For that, we are certainly thankful. A special note also goes out to all of those who are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. They continue to be in our thoughts and we hope they are able to enjoy the company of their family and friends on Thanksgiving. And of, course, a special thank you to all the RugbyRugby.com readers out there for your continued support.
Happy Thanksgiving from Romania!
Until next time...
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