Dublin: 10°C Monday 25 October 2021

US rugby star Scott Lavalla on his 4 years at Trinity College and plastic pint glasses

The US Eagles second-row spent four years at the grand old college and recalls some wild days and nights in Ireland.

Scott Lavalla in action for Stade Francais against Leinster.
Scott Lavalla in action for Stade Francais against Leinster.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

SCOTT LAVALLA ENJOYED a home-coming of sorts when Stade Francais arrived in Dublin last month to play the Amlin Challenge Cup Final against Leinster. The US Eagles second-row caught up with friends and former teammates and was back on the tea again.

The American, who lines up for his country against Ireland in the early hours of Sunday morning [1:30am kick-off], spent four years in Dublin, as a student of Philosophy and Political Science, at Trinity College Dublin. He spent two seasons at Ulster but never won a senior cap before Stade came calling and Paris became his home.

In the lead-up to the Ireland v USA match, TheScore.ie caught up with Lavalla and found a fascinating character that loves graffiti and Sheriff Street almost as much as he loves winning with his country:

I went through Trinity through a rugby connection. Tony Smeeth was the director of rugby at Trinity and had lived in Seattle for 10 years [Lavalla is from Olympic, Washington]. When I was graduating from high school, it coincided with the Under-19 World Cup in Belfast. A few club coaches were at the event and I got a trial with the Leinster Academy. That’s where I met Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney and Eamonn Sheridan. Devin Toner too.

Lavalla and Louis Stanfill in action for the US Eagles in 2011.(©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

My first year of college saw me living in the Trinity Halls campus in Milltown. It was a freshers’ dormitory and there were a lot of things you had to pay attention to and follow – signing guests in, keeping the noise down. I got over that [place] real quick.

In second year I lived in an apartment in Stoneybatter and the year after was near Windmill Lane where U2 did some of their recording. It was cool. It’s the only place in Ireland where it is still legal to do graffiti.

For my final year I lived up on Saville Place, which is one street up from Sheriff Street. It was by far my favourite place to live in Dublin. During that cold spell a few years back, I would be walking home and getting set upon by kids with pockets full of snowballs. These little kids would chase me down the street with snowballs. I loved it. It was such a colourful place. I’d by on my way to school and the police would come flying by. I have the best memories of my time there. The people there were salt of the earth. Really cool people.

If we were heading out on a night out we would usually start at the Pavilion Bar. As a rugby team, we had a few places that were good until we wore out our welcome. The Gingerman was another good bar. One place stopped selling us beer in pint glasses as there were a few breakages. We’d get these plastic pints. In my final year, we were barred from using The Pav. We were allowed in as individuals but not as a team.


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Lavalla is tackled by Leinster’s Sean O’Brien. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

In 2010, Tony Smeeth was doing some coaching certs with Gary Longwell and he put in a good work for me. Ulster had a look and I spent a couple of years there but was never contracted. It is harder to get in with Irish clubs as the foreign player rule is stricter than in France. Stade was another happy coincidence when a coach at Trinity ended up over there and I got a trial. I’ve been here a couple of years now and I’d love to stick around.

To get to live in Paris, do what you love and get well paid for it, you’re not going far wrong.

From my time in Ireland, I know a few guys that are with the squad this summer – Chris Henry, Declan Fitzpatrick, Paddy Jackson. I caught up with Madigan and Isaac Boss after the Amlin Final. I emailed Declan and Chris this week, too, to say good luck and hopefully we’ll catch up after the match.

It’s November since I last played for the US Eagles. I want to play for my country as much as I can but hosting Ireland in front of a sell-out crowd of 17,000 should be pretty special. By our standards, the build-up to the game has been big. I’m just off the phone to the Houston Chronicle. Now, who knows their circulation but it’s nice to get the interest. I missed playing them in 2009 and at the World Cup, although I featured in the other three pool games.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing but respect for the Irish team but we are trying to change that culture from putting in a good performance to winning matches. Without any ego in saying this, we’re playing Ireland to win.

US Eagles v Ireland kicks off at 1:30am [Irish time] Sunday and is live on TG4.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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