- Scott has proved that rugby’s strong community values breaks through borders, even ones the size of the Atlantic Ocean
- He moved from America to Dublin where he captained the Dublin University Football Club in the 2010-11 season
- After graduating LaValla signed for Top 14 side Stade Francais, earning 82 caps since 2011
Q: How did you get in to rugby as a teenager over more mainstream American sports?
SL: I played a lot of sports growing up and I used rugby to keep fit between seasons. I lost interest in the others gradually but found my passion for rugby stayed. It’s very social in America, and it’s such a rapidly growing sport that I found I was growing with the sport when I was younger. It’s comparatively smaller than other more mainstream American sports, but I’ve heard that in terms of numbers, more people play rugby in the States than in Australia.
When I was thinking of universities to go to, I looked at Trinity College in Dublin and I kind of fell in love with the idea of playing rugby at university in Ireland.
Q: What was it like moving to Europe to study but also to play rugby?
SL: One of the great things about sport is that if you’re in a new area with unfamiliar faces, you instantly have an extensive network of people that you can meet and spend time with. When I arrived in Dublin there were 30/40 guys I had this shared love with and it made it so easy to make friends. Mix the social aspect of rugby with a student environment and it allowed me to branch out. The rugby team made moving away from home for the first time so easy.
Q: What is the French rugby family like compared to the Irish?
SL: The biggest difference I experienced was the step up from student level to professional. It is obviously a profession at Stade Français and they expect a lot. Moving from Ireland to France was a challenge, there are four different languages being spoken every day at SF, my teammates were from South Africa, Argentina as well as Georgia and lots of other places. It was a melting pot and we were all very different. Some had been on the team for ten years, some were there on one year contracts. It was a different dynamic but the game brought us together. We bonded through the sport.
A big difference I had to adjust to was sports in the States and sports in Europe. In the States even from a young age, it’s militaristic, yes-coach no-coach type of relationships. You sprint through the line in training so to speak. When I arrived in Ireland and even to an extent in France, things are more relaxed, you call the coach by his first name, you take training a bit less seriously and have more of a ‘save it for the game’ attitude. Also off the field there’s more emphasis on enjoying yourselves in Europe through good food and good wine. It’s just a bit more relaxed.
I think my attitude and professionalism helped me. I know that hard work pays off and despite coming to the game later than my European teammates, I can compete at the same level because I have worked hard from a young age.
Q: How is rugby developing in the States, is it learning from other sports or adopting from the European game?
SL: Rugby is the fastest growing sport in America. Sevens is an attractive format for Americans and it’s becoming commercial. It’s becoming more than a small family; I can travel to a lot of American cities and have someone to call and a place to stay because of rugby. I have these bonds all over the world because of the sport and they’re not exclusive. It’s a shared experience.
The American game itself at a national level is still different to the European style. It’s very athletic and physical and I think critics would say it’s less skilled than in Europe, but that’s changing. Our national team is starting to be more measured and in control when playing the big games.
American sports can be a bit American-centric but rugby is a global sport and the opportunities for someone who wants to explore the world, I can’t think of a better sport to be involved with.
Q: Have you found in your experiences that rugby transcends languages, nationalities and countries?
SL: I have socialised and become friends with lots of people I never would have met if it weren’t for rugby. I have very close relationships with a lot of people and I think I have developed as well because of the sport.
At the professional level the social and friendly nature of the game is still there. You meet after a game to swap commemorative gifts and to have a beer. What happened in the match stays on the pitch and you often have dinner together. I can’t think of any other sports that have that. It’s pretty special. I love the integrity that rugby has, there are exceptions, but for example if you have a problem with someone in rugby you front up to them and sort it out face to face, it’s a fraternal sport that honours its principles.
Rugby has given me the opportunity to see the world and to meet great friends, I’ve seen and done things I would never have been able to do and I have a global perspective now. It’s been enriching and I recommend the sport to everybody. It’s a truly global sport and it’s got so much to offer.