We had an incredible precamp and the team really came together.
At day 5 touring started and we visited the old city of Jerusalem, Masada, a beduin dinner in the desert, Yad Vashem, and many other historical sites.
After most of the tour started, the 7s tournament took place and the US team played like champions. We won a coat hanger of a game in the final against a very strong Israeli side to bring home gold.
The opening ceremony was incredible as over 70 countries walked into the stadium in Jerusalem to a sold out crowd of 35,000. The night saw speeches from the President, dignitaries, music, and dancing from artists all over the world. I was honored and ever grateful that my parents were able to experience it with me. Truly an amazing evening.
Our first 15s game was against Canada and in absolutely shocking fashion, I broke my leg 30 minutes into the first half. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I spent a couple days in the hospital before getting surgery and then spent another week in recovery as the surgery was quite complex. The pain has worn off for the most part and now I have been able to see a brighter side of the injury. By not being able to play, I have been given ample time alone to think about my career as a rugby player, how the transition to other roles associated with rugby might look, and a general state of my being that is afforded only when spending hours upon hours alone.
To me, rugby is a great metaphor for life. Much of what is executed and learned on the pitch can and should be applied to life. In that spirit, while the hand I was dealt was poor relative to the next guy, I feel as though it has been a lesson in patience and acceptance. If given a chance to do it again, I might not have broken my leg, but I certainly would not change the men that make up this team or the experiences that have highlighted this tour.
The next game was against Great Britain. We were beating them in every phase of play and at 60 minutes subbed out most starters. The luck then swung toward the opponents as they ended the game ahead. The outcome did not affect the playoff matrix, as we both had playoff berths. Only ego and pride were at stake and the Brits came out on top.
The first game of the playoffs saw a physical test with the Australians, the defending gold medal team from 2009. The game had flurries of champaign rugby, muddled with yellow cards, dropped balls, and general mayhem between the uprights. A hat tip goes to the Aussies who came out ahead and will compete for the Gold medal against Israel in the finals. Israel handily defeated the Brits to send the centuries old grudge match back to the pitch for a second round. The bronze will be contested between the US and the Brits just prior to the finals.
All in all, it has been an amazing tour and I have been fortunate to make what will likely be life long friends with many of my teammates and staff. It might not be on the field, but I’ll return to the Maccabiah again.
ps – In the boredom of spending nearly two weeks in a hospital and then my hotel room, I tested and identified the optimal pillow stacking technique to support a broken leg.