By Brian Lowe, Date: 22/6/18
It may have been a rest day for the England and New Zealand players in Denver and while they may have skipped the gym and practice sessions Thursday, they did anything but just sit around twiddling their thumbs.
After a few days of solid preparations for Saturday’s one-off Test at Mile High, guys from both teams took advantage of the opportunity to take an eTuk tour of Denver.
For the uninitiated, eTuks are Denver’s version of Tuk Tuks. They have three wheels, are fully electric, seat up to six people, and are equipped with see-through windscreens.
During the tour, the players swung by City Hall to meet with the local mayor Michael Hancock. He was presented with team jerseys and a rugby league football as a memento of the event.
The tour followed Wednesday night’s outing to a Major League Baseball game at which players were guests of the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
As far as adjusting to the local conditions for Saturday’s game are concerned, Slade Griffin, one of the newbies in the Kiwi team, says it hasn’t been too bad, especially given the player welfare measures that were put in place by the team’s medical staff on the long flight from Sydney.
“We got treated like royalty and we couldn’t ask for anything more,” he says.
“It’s a great energy going around camp and players like myself are really excited to come into camp and put on the back and white. There’s a buzz going around!”
Teammate Nelson Asofa-Solomona echoes those sentiments, while also acknowledging that England won’t be easy to beat.
“Definitely excited for the challenge here in the US,” he adds.
“The English are not going to be a pushover obviously, they’ve done very well in the World Cup last year. We’ve got a very young group and those boys are very excited and have itchy feet to get out there.”
From an England standpoint, veteran James Graham says they will benefit from having the same group of players since Wayne Bennett took over as coach.
“We’re not there where we want to be yet,” he says. “We aim really really high, we are aiming as high as possible.
“We’ve been close with last year’s World Cup. We didn’t win on the scoreboard, but I don’t think we could’ve done much more in that game. We’ve got to build on that now and look forward to this game against the Kiwis.
“This mid-season Test I think is so valuable in terms of getting the group together and not being eleven months before we see each other again.”
Meantime, head coach Michael Maguire has confirmed the seven players chosen in the squad to travel to Denver will all make their Test debuts for the Kiwis at Mile High Stadium.
Friday will see the captains runs at Mile High stadium.
And in a side note, the promoters Moore Sports International, or Moore Rugby America as they’re now called in the US, have announced that they have finalized a partnership with the CBS Sports network to broadcast the match stateside.
The announcement is the last piece of the puzzle to slide into place in so much as up until now, the United States was the only country not served with live coverage of the game.