An impromptu inquiry about playing rugby in New Zealand has landed West London duo Steve MacConville and Richard Ives in what is likely to be their first and only Taranaki senior club final.
The pair, who play for Esher in England, admit they had itchy feet at the end of their domestic season so contacted an agent to see if there was anything on offer in New Zealand.
"The opportunity to play southern hemisphere rugby is what really appealed," MacConville said after his side's last training run on Thursday.
"Richard and I have been best mates for a long time, so we thought, it's the end of the season, why not see if we can come out here and learn something while we're out here and become better players. The opportunity just sort of landed in our laps and within two weeks of asking we were booking our flights and were away."
MacConville, 24, a loose forward, will sit on the bench against Coastal in the senior A final at Yarrow Stadium while Ives, 25, will take up his usual spot at loosehead prop.
The pair said the experience had well and truly met their expectations.
"It's just been so enjoyable, the club bond we have here is really strong and it's been a really, really good environment to be around," MacConville said.
Ives vividly remembers the early rounds of the competition when the sun beat down and the pace of the game had him wondering just what he had signed up for.
"We knew when we came out that it would be a lot more open game than the British game but I was surprised just how quick in the first couple of weeks we were here," he said.
"Adjusting to the heat was a big thing. We turned up for the Eltham-Kaponga game and that would be the most tired I've ever been in my life, we certainly weren't used to playing rugby in it."
The speed at which the ball was moved from the breakdown in New Zealand had impressed MacConville who said his game was the better for it.
"The level is similar to back home but some of the skills here compared to the guys at home, it's just through the roof."
Ives had plenty of praise for second season coaches Phil Mitchell and Tony Earl who he maintained were quick to identify where improvements were needed through the squad.
Ives and MacConville will not be the only foreign influence on the field for Old Boys today, with third-year player Ross Allan taking up his usual spot at second five-eighth. Allan, who hails from Jersey, has been at the club since striking up a friendship with former representative fullback Scott Ireland at Plymouth Albion.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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