Meet the Sharpest Rugby Team In New York City

By Megan Gustashaw

If you ever played on a team or just rooted passionately for one, you know how powerful sports can be in bringing people together, relieving stress, and generally making weekends a lot more fun. The young men of NYC’s newly established Rugby team—the City’s first professional rugby team—feel it, too. While they have personal lives and responsibilities like everyone else, they’re deeply committed to each other and their sport. When they aren’t practicing on the field, they’re often eating, drinking, and celebrating together in their new home city. That bond is also helping them perform better. The team played a few “exhibition” games this season, as they gear up to join Major League Rugby in 2019, and they crushed all of them. We can only imagine the kind of energy they’ll be bringing to the field next year—not to mention the post-game celebrating they’ll do.

For a break from brunch and practice, we brought some of the guys together to talk to us about their bond—and test run our new denim collection. The conversation was easy, and the fitting was, too. Express denim is designed with a little bit of stretch so that, even if your quads are extra large and all muscle, they still fit like a glove. Check it out below.

Harry Bennett: I’m going to throw to you first, Nick. How would you describe the team dynamic?

Nick Wolley: The team dynamic is interesting. Mike [St. Claire]’s Old Blue, and we played for a couple of different clubs at club level, but we all come together to play. There are people on the team from all over the world. I think everyone’s generally really friendly but when it comes time to be serious and get on the field everyone knows how to switch on.

Mike St. Claire: It’s interesting because you you have all these different guys that are a part of this team, and prior to this we spent all this time having this huge rivalry, all this bad blood, and just tons of animosity amongst all the teams. Now people are going on tours together, and they’re playing together, they realize ‘oh wow, these people are actually not that bad’, you know?

Harry: Love that, all right. Well, Conner, I think you’re the best one to answer this. Keep it PG if you can. The dynamic changes on and off the field. How would you kind of distinguish between the two around the club.

Nick: Big question.

Connor Wallace-Sims: Yeah.

Harry: Culture.

Connor: Team culture, well you know the Rugby culture is also a drinking culture . . .

Harry: Let’s start again. It was about to go downhill, it was about to go downhill. Conner, how would you describe the dynamic changes between on and off the field, specifically the culture.

Connor: I think . . .

Harry: Where’s your mind at?

Connor: Yeah, I think the team culture changes a little bit outside of rugby. You know, rugby players like to celebrate victories, they like to celebrate being rugby players and having fun together. So I think a lot of the time we’re trying to spend time together off the field, whether that be going to brunch, you know obviously behaving ourselves at brunch…

Nick: Big coffee drinkers.

Connor: Big coffee drinkers. Hitting up the cinema together.

Nick: Love fashion.

Connor: Absolutely love fashion, you know New York Fashion Week, getting the boys together and watching the runways.

Mike: I also think the cool part of what we do is that it’s a profession but also everyone has day to day lives that they actually have to attend to as well. Whether it’s work or whether it’s family engagements and stuff like that. So it’s kind of like a Clark Kent kind of thing.

Harry: Lovely analogy. Rapid fire, if you guys just want to jump in and out on this one. Despite any tension or arguments, we still have to play as a team, right? How do we make it work?  

Connor: I think for the most part we’re a pretty mature team with a lot of experience. So when that sort of stuff does happen it kind of gets brushed to the side. We don’t really let it affect us, we just move on to the next task at hand and just go from there.

Nick: That’s it. Focusing on other things, make it light-hearted. You just brush the bad stuff off to the side and focus on the good stuff and move forward.

Harry: Alright, before you think about this one, you can’t answer as yourself. But who do you think is the best player in the team?

Nick: I like seeing Mikey sprinting down the wings, going quick.

Harry: You were never going to say me.

Nick: I can’t say Harry, I can’t say. We established the accent difference here, but Mikey blistering down the wing is a good sight. I think he’s great and yeah, that’s my vote.

Connor: I’ll jump on the bandwagon and I’ll say Mikey, because as someone that has to pass Mikey the ball, and all I can hear outside of me is him going ‘ahhh, ahhh, ahhh’ instead of asking me to pass him the ball. He’s just making random chicken noises I have to admit, that is pretty entertaining.  

Harry: Who looks best in a rugby uniform?

Connor: Which color? Black and white or Orange?

Harry: Good question, let’s go away kit, black and white. I’ve never put that on though.

Connor: You haven’t mate.

Harry: Nah, let’s go Orange and blue. Let’s go New York State colors.

Nick: It’s Harry, it’s Harry. Harry’s the best in orange and blue.

Mike: Harry.

Harry: I don’t know if I like that answer though either.  

Connor: I tell you what, we’re going to go in terms of wearing the full run-y tracksuit, and jacket and hat. I’m going to say myself, because I got asked by so many people on the subway ‘Do you play for the Nicks?’

Harry: Or the Mets.

Connor: Or the Mets, or whoever else.

Harry: Or the Netherlands ice luging team.

Nick: Yeah. I’ll pay that, because I got asked the same question. But it wasn’t if I played for the Nicks, it’s if I was a Nicks halftime dancer.

Harry: Wow…What are some of the secrets to traveling as a team without wanting to kill each other?

Nick: Don’t sit next to toxic people.

Connor: Avoid toxic people. And that’s toxic smells, toxic chat.

Harry: Toxic chat’s big.

Nick: Double denim. The old Canadian tuxedo.

Harry: Wearing double denim. It’s liberating, isn’t it?

Mike: It’s liberating, there’s some synergy behind there, everyone’s on the same page.  

Harry: Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? I’ll go first on this one. I think all four of us here are extremely disproportionate when it comes to waist, booty, thigh, calf.

Connor: Hamstrings.

Harry: Hamstrings.

Connor: Hips.

Harry: So I would say I’m super self-conscious about my calf ratio to my quad ratio.

Nick: It’s a bit awkward sometimes.

Harry: So I tend to go on the skinny or stretchy side of a jean. Something that feels tight, but also liberating at the same time.

Connor: Slim but stretchy, yeah. Being in America, and living in America for the last three years, I do get some interesting comments about wearing skinny jeans. Some of those comments have been, like, ‘Why are you wearing your sister’s jeans?’ And you know, for me it’s like ‘Why can’t I wear a pair of skinny jeans?’ I still do it, because the comments are pretty funny. But yeah, for me just a pair of skinny jeans, nice rip in the knee, cuffed at the bottom, a little bit of looseness at the hips and butt. Gotta have that free flow movement.

Mike: I would say wash-wise, you’d always have multiple washes to build your wardrobe. What I think is important is you needed at least 2% spandex in there.

Nick: Flexibility.

Harry: Love that answer, Mikey we need some tissues in here.

Connor: How do you make it emotional talking about jeans, man?

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