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14th Dec 2021

London Irish must have the most unusual player initiation in rugby

Patrick McCarry

Nick Phipps

“He turned to me, a minute later, and said, ‘Mate, have you got a problem with me?!'”

Wallabies star Nick Phipps and Seán O’Brien got off to somewhat of a shaky start at London Irish, but it was more of a communication problem than anything else.

The scrumhalf was sitting beside O’Brien in the Exiles’ changing room, before his first training session, and only caught the tail-end of the flanker telling a teammate that someone else was ‘not at the races’

Phipps thought the comment was aimed at him and called O’Brien out – “You’ve got to take on the biggest dog in the yard!” – but the Carlow native explained that he had been slagging another teammate. “We got on great after that,” he says.

While Phipps established that he would have a crack back at anyone in the changing room, his biggest challenge was still to come as he attempted to get through the London Irish player initiation, involving some booze and a raw potato.

On his House of Rugby appearance [LISTEN from 3:00 below], the Aussie told O’Brien and co-host Alex Goode how he just about held his own on his first big squad night out.

Nick Phipps and Sean O’Brien of London Irish look to tackle Bath’s Talupe Faletau. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The raw potato initiation

“That didn’t happen until our first real squad night out, before Covid hit,” says Nick Phipps of his official London Irish player initiation.

“On that first social, it was a pint of Guinness with a shot of whiskey in it. Then you had to eat a whole, raw potato.

“And then another pint of Guinness with a shot of Baileys in it, after. So, that sunk a few blokes.”

“Have you ever tried to eat a raw potato?” O’Brien, who was sitting alongside Phipps, asked Alex Goode.

“No,” he quickly replied, “and I wouldn’t want to!”

“It’s tough work,” Phipps admits, “but you’ve just got to get through it. It takes about 10 minutes to do it, and everyone is just sitting there like, ‘C’mon, hurry up!’

O’Brien joined London Irish the same season as Phipps, 2019/20, and says the Australian got through the initiation in better shape than other newbies but he ‘got out of Dodge’ not long after.

Having a few drinks with new teammates is a common enough custom in most team sports – each Ireland debutant usually has to take a drink of whatever a teammate or opposition player orders for him at the post-match dinner – but the raw potato element is a tricky wrinkle.

We are sure there are even more bizarre player initiations out there. If your team has a good one, do let us know on our social media channels.