Ronnie and Radoi back from national service
Ronnie McLean and Andrei Radoi returned to Ealing Trailfinders this week after playing in the recent series of autumn internationals.
McLean made his debut for the USA Eagles in their 20-14 loss to Fiji in Vannes, France last Friday while Radoi played in all three of Romania’s internationals, against the USA, Japan and Canada.
The 29-yead-old McLean qualifies for the USA as he was born in Berkely, a suburb of Los Angeles. He lived there until he was six years old, when his family returned to live in Coventry.
“There was a phonecall on the Friday afternoon and they said, ‘are you interested in getting involved in the American team. We are going to be down in Gloucester playing Tonga and if you do well this week, you’ll be going to France the week after, are you interested?” McLean explained.
“It was a pretty short yes and work was happy for me to go and Wardy (Director of Coaching Ben Ward) was happy for me to go and it worked out pretty well.
“It was unbelievable, such a good experience and being on an international stage, playing against the Fijians and being part of the American squad was pretty much a dream come true.”
McLean was a substitute for the previous match against Tonga in Gloucester, but didn’t make it off the bench. However, he played the entire 80 minutes against Fiji, though in the less familiar role of fullback, rather than centre.
It made little difference to his performance and he scored his first international points when he converted both the Eagles’ tries and also set up wing Taku Ngwenya for their second try.
“I’ve never played fullback so it was a bit of an eye-opener and I think I did myself justice, ” he said. “I was very happy that they gave me the opportunity, so I got my head down and made sure I got my positioning right.
“They asked me to take the kicks so I got back my kicking tee and got practising again. It wasn’t too hard to get in the swing of things.”
Rugby in the USA has been growing apace in recent years with the work of former England international Nigel Melville boosting participation rates at all levels.
The Eagles made international headlines earlier in November when over 60, 000 filled Chicago’s Soldier Field for their Test against New Zealand and earlier in the year they qualified for a fifth-consecutive Rugby World Cup, where they will face South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and Japan in Pool B.
“Chatting to the guys they were saying that rugby is getting on the map and starting to get some traction over there and I think the New Zealand match was a really big step, ” he said.
“Hopefully it will get more people to say ‘rather than American football or baseball, I will give rugby a go’. The biggest problem they have right now is they have guys who go to play football, baseball or basketball and then don’t make it so they think they’ll give rugby a go and they are starting a lot later than a lot of other nations.
“They’re having the debrief and going through all the videos, so I will have some feedback from the last game and then I think they’re starting to plan what they do for next year. Hopefully I’ve put myself in good stead to get involved with it, but I just have to stay fit and healthy and play well.”
Three from three for Radoi
Radoi’s three appearances took his tally of caps to 37. The first two of the three November Tests were defeats, 27-17 to the USA and 18-13 to Japan, but the Oaks ended with an 18-9 win over Canada.
Earlier in the year Radoi helped Romania to a place in the Rugby World Cup when they finished second behind Georgia in the European Nations Cup. It means that they will face France, Ireland, Italy and Canada in Pool D.
“We were very disappointed after the first game, ” Radoi said. “We had just four training sessions together and we were unable to put everything in place and made a lot of mistakes and we lost the game.
“But after that we improved a lot. We needed a positive result against Canada and our scrum went very well.
“Everybody came back together from over the world. A lot play in France, I play here and others in Romania and it was good to catch up and share stories in camp.
Next up for Radoi is the 2015 European Nationals Cup, effectively the Six Nations B tournament as the countdown to the World Cup continues, with Radoi aiming for a second World Cup appearance after New Zealand 2011.
“We play in February and March and begin against Portugal in Portugal, ” he said. “It will be a tough game, but we are aiming to win the Six Nations and prepare well for the World Cup.”