LONDON, 4 Oct – You could say 2015 has been a busy year for Mike Petri.

The USA scrum-half earned his 50th international cap in July and is playing in his third Rugby World Cup, all while working full-time as a maths and science teacher and coaching rugby at Xavier High School in New York.

And in June, Petri (pictured above, left) published a children’s book, R is for Rugby, written for his daughter Evie.

He was encouraged to write it by his wife Lauren, who Petri said “should be put up for sainthood” for her support, when she became pregnant with the couple’s first child a couple of years ago.

“Right before she was born my wife and I started looking at children’s books and thought it would be fun to write one about rugby,” Petri said.

“It teaches kids about rugby with rhymes. It’s fully illustrated. The priority was to grow rugby and grow the sport back home, introducing children to the sport at a young age.”

Each letter of the alphabet is illustrated with a rhyme teaching children about the sport and Petri said the book had been a hit with little Evie.

Rugby family

It was as a student at Xavier High that Petri first began playing rugby under the tutelage of current Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin. USA centre Seamus Kelly is also a Xavier High alumnus.

Petri said the school’s support had been vital to his rugby success. “None of it’s possible without them being flexible,” he said. “They support me in every endeavour.”

His family has also been a crucial element in Petri’s career as a sportsman.

“My dad was a college football player and when I went home to talk to my parents about playing rugby that was the first time I heard that my dad played rugby,” he explained. “He was the one that probably talked me into it, because he really loved rugby and wished he’d played it more. He’s been in my corner for a long time.”

For the time being, Petri has put his day job and writing on hold to focus on the World Cup. So far the USA have had a tough tournament, defeated by Samoa 25-16 and by Scotland 39-16. They play South Africa on Wednesday.

“The guys know we need to finish the tournament strong,” Petri said. “It’s an interesting pool that we’re in. We’re down but we’re not out, there’s still a lot of fight left in this group.”

RNS jh/js/kd