UCD's New Zealand-born lock Richie Mandeno has come a long way since his first training session with the Belfield side.
Read on for the 23-year-old's thoughts on his career to date, his time in Ireland and his second season in the AIB All-Ireland League.
"Growing up in New Zealand you are never far away from the great game of rugby. One of earliest memories is playing 13-a-side, barefoot in the in-goal at Te Awamutu Sports. On this particular frosty morning I can remember the drive home and crying as my frozen toes thawed out.
"It was my dad that initially introduced me to rugby, being a lock for Waikato before the days of the NPC, he was my biggest influence in rugby. At Junior level I played some provincial age grade and schools rugby.
"After a gap year in London, I moved to Dunedin to attend Otago University in the South Island. During my four years there I played for the University Bs for a year and the 'A' team for my final two, winning one final and losing in another.
"On August 30, 2005 I arrived to partake in my first training session at UCD. I came to UCD to finish off my commerce degree, directed by a university coach Ken Hodge, UCD RFC was recommended to me.
"The first fitness/training session I had could only be described as 'a shocker!' The previous weekend I spent my three-day stop over in London reacquainting myself with some old friends (not recommended for those who have the dreaded pre-season just around the corner!) Sometimes you have to loathe the phrase "first impressions last."
"Despite this rough start I was able to make the starting line-up against what was to be a hugely fired-up Carlow team.
"The 2005/06 season proved to be a frustrating affair for UCD - missed opportunities seemed to be the story for us. Although feeling that we were strongly competitive against the larger teams such as Shannon and Clontarf, we were unable to finish the job and this effectively put us out of the semi-final race.
"For me, the highlight of the year was playing against Shannon. In what was an eventual loss I felt we pushed them the whole way and it was great to play against quality players such as Stephen Keogh.
"One of the main questions I get asked is "how does the AIB League compare to New Zealand rugby?" A question like this is always hard to answer, risking a ribbing from other New Zealand players who have experienced the AIL.
"I believe the league is on a par with club rugby back home. The advantage of the league here though is you are able to play nationwide, back home most games played at club level will be within the clubs' respective provinces - mine for the previous four years being Otago.
...Carlow youngster Sean O'Brien who could be an influential figure for UCD this season...
"Talking to people who have been about for years, the 2006/07 AIB League has been strengthened with the promotion of Dolphin and Terenure College to the top flight. And with this, our first AIL excursion is against Dolphin at the infamous Musgrave Park this Saturday.
"Dolphin are somewhat of an unknown quantity to me, I have heard rumours of a large and strongly-built pack, although I am sure this is the case. Whenever anyone talks about teams from Munster, conversation inevitably turns towards "Munster forwards."
"Like most teams in Division One, the underlying goal for UCD this year is to make the top four. This gives us the opportunity to play in the knockout phase of the competition, which as the All Blacks have shown from their many sunken attempts at World Cup glory, the cliche "anything can happen" is very appropriate.
"For UCD a number of last year's talented Under-20 players have come through into the First team set-up, injecting their youthful enthusiasm into the team and putting pressure on the likes of myself to perform or inevitably risk getting acquainted with the bench.
"Judging from the electric form of both Fergus McFadden and Sean O'Brien in pre-season, these young players could be the ones to keep a close eye on during the league."