It’s not often you get the chance to pick the brains of the absolute best New Zealand has to offer, let alone have that serve as inspiration before going head-to-head with one of the country’s renowned rugby nurseries.
It's an opportunity Central West’s stars gleefully took though, having been afforded the chance to draw on the knowledge of a handful of All Blacks and Black Ferns prior to Wednesday night’s games against Canterbury University.
All Blacks and Crusaders legends Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga and Codie Taylor joined the Central West group for breakfast on Wednesday morning, as did Black Ferns prop Phillipa Love, talking all things rugby and offering plenty of specific, individual advice too.
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Dubbo Kangaroos second-rower Shaun McHugh said the entire group soaked up the experience, one that he thinks will prove invaluable individually and holistically. Why wouldn’t they soak it up, considering that star-studded group of Kiwis boast more than 150 international appearances combined.
“It was an unbelievable experience to be able to talk to that calibre of player. It was a great insight, not just into rugby but also into their way of life off the field too,” McHugh, who presented the Kiwi group with Blue Bulls kit afterwards as a thank you, said.
“I don't think many people back in Australia would've have the chance to be in that environment, with three All Blacks and a Black Fern basically telling us what rugby was all about.
“It was pretty impressive, a privilege really."
As you’d expect McHugh was particularly keen to hear what Whitelock, as decorated an All Black as you’ll find, had to say considering they're both predominantly locks.
“He was great to talk to, just a really nice guy,” McHugh said of the 107-Test, World Cup and Super Rugby-winning second-rower.
“I picked his brain a little bit (about second-row play) but I was more interested in talking about rugby in general, who his toughest opponent has been and that sort of thing. Funnily enough he answered those questions but he more wanted to know about us, where we're from, how far we travel to play and that sort of thing.
“He wanted to know about farming too, he's a bit of farmer. They all engaged, and they were really interested in what we were doing which blew me away a little bit.”
Central West split their men's group into two sides to face Canterbury University's first and second XVs on Wednesday night, with the women facing their counterparts as well, winning all three games.