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Rugby trips of a lifetime and hazy away days

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John Beattie | 23:14 UK time, Wednesday, 25 April 2012

What's the best rugby trip you've been on? Ever. Anywhere.

As Edinburgh fans scramble around borrowing money for a trip to Dublin, my mind started wandering.

Will the Scottish rugby team hit winning ways soon, who was the biggest person ever to play for Scotland (Richard Metcalfe I think) and will Donald Trump buy Murrayfield, call it Trump and Grind, and stick a couple of wind turbines on the back pitch?

Actually I wasn't really, I was thinking about going back to Ireland's capital and packing light. Yes, Dublin's fair city where the girls are so pretty but it's not much use if you're in your fifties, or something like that.

And from there my mind raced to all the places I've played rugby in, or had the luck to go to and watch games. You and me, we like away trips.

I've been tweeting to try to get Edinburgh fans to come to our Sport Nation programme on Saturday morning and I hope that plenty make the journey to the Aviva stadium or it'll be like going to a new branch of a fast food restaurant called Little Belfast. All red and white and "Stand up for the Ulstermen..." and the rest of it.

Fans enjoy at day out at Murrayfield

Rugby fans have always been fond of an "away day" (pic: SNS)

As a kid the first trips were on "tours" to the Borders of Scotland to get bits of my body kicked by players from Hawick, Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose. Those were excellent weekends. In fact, I think we nearly won a game once.

The older I got the more travel beckoned: Dublin and Aurrilac with the then Scotland "B" team, the other home nations and a tour of France and Spain with Scotland. Spain as part of a, yes, football World Cup, and then two southern hemisphere trips with the Lions.

In the middle of all that was a game against Australia where, at the post-match function, I sat beside a really outgoing young stand-off called Michael Lynagh and I just want to put in writing that I really hope he's Okay. To heck with the rugby he played, that is a decent man.

And then with the Beeb, and I know I'm one of the luckiest blokes in the world, there have been some amazing times.

Do you know what though? See when you step off a plane anywhere in the world I'm kind of proud that my game is rugby. Fans will rib each other without real bitterness, there is no segregation.

I remember being in a bar in Brisbane and some Aussie found out who we worked for and asked who we were. I said that the person to my left was my producer. "Oh." said the Aussie. "And just what kind of films exactly is it you star in?" with a wink.

On the same trip I was woken by kids surfing at half five in the morning, I've had monkeys throw dates onto my hotel's tin roof outside Durban in South Africa, and I've sat with a Scottish team on tour in the middle of France as they dished up octopus stew - and nobody touched it.

There is something about a rugby town that sticks with you. Dublin this weekend will put on its green hat and welcome the folks from Edinburgh and Belfast.

It'll be Guinness and buskers and Grafton Street and walking and laughs and food and very little sleep.

When the Leinster men go to Bordeaux to play Clermont Auvergne it'll be wine and warmth and smoky sausage barbecues, baguettes and funny hats and a language barrier.

All are equally lovable, and all marvellous, which is how an Edinburgh win would be this weekend.

For Edinburgh to reach the Heineken Cup final they have to get that game plan working and keep the ball from Ulster who are a good side. Can Edinburgh win? Possibly...

I'm not going to be fancy. The best ruby trip of my life was to the Scottish Borders. The first time for most things is the best. I was 17, in a car being driven by an older team-mate and crammed to the limits by anything up to five players and their kit and golf clubs, passing Carstairs and Carluke, down through Peebles, and then into a land of green I'd never seen before.

The hospitality was as amazing as the physicality on the pitch. And then there's that pint in your hand, a hotel bed (I know, extravagance) a hungover breakfast full of smiles and memories, a day off on the Saturday, a repeat performance in the shape of being kicked to bits on the Sunday, and then back up the road to get ready for another hopelessly out-of-sorts Monday at University.

Man it's been a good life.

So if you're in Dublin I'll see you there - but, before you go let me know the best rugby trip you've ever been on.


  • Comment number 1.

    your right life is good and so many happy memories and manyconnected to the great attitude displayed by so many in this great game from kit men to referees to team mates to opponents to supporter both home and away canny help but think rabbie burns would have been so at home in arugby clubhouse anywhere in the world as so many with the same outlook on life are to bge found there. best rugby trips so manyto choose from first game in borders at melrose so apprehensive but so dissappointed to be narrowly beaten and realising it was possible to match those supposed border gods -cardiff 1984 start of a grand slam such a memorable weekend in so many ways-lions tour to south africa 2009 so interesting and great craic and on and on

  • Comment number 2.

    Best rugby trip, if you ignore the result, was Brisbane in 2003, for the Australia v Scotland world cup game. I was based in Sydney for the tournament and flew up to Brisbane. For the return journey, I hired a car and took my time driving back down. Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour (home of the Big Banana), inland along the Waterfall Way (in the middle of a drought), through Dorrigo and the Hunter Valley, back to Manly Beach, where I stayed in the same hotel as the English team. Happy days. Then I received the credit card statement...

  • Comment number 3.

    Ah, that just raised some memories – my first time at Murrayfield was an early 90′s victory against France. A long trip from Inverness but was an amazing day – hooked ever since.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 4.

    A wee Edinburgh ditty for the game:

    You'll take the high road and I'll take the low road
    And I'll be in Twickers afore ye
    When Gunners beat Ulster, they'll ne'er STAND UP again
    on the bonnie bonnie banks of the Liffey

  • Comment number 5.

    Living in France, best ever trip was to Edinburgh with my local Vets team to play against my old club Edinburgh Accies. So successful that the year after we went to Dublin and last year to Italy. This year we've invited all the teams back plus an English one and a Welsh one and are organising our inaugural Veterans Six Nations (next weekend). Only problem is, I'm representing France.....

  • Comment number 6.

    Vancouver Island
    It was so nice to be somewhere where being a Brit was actually considered to be a good thing. Playing Castaways, Cowichan and Oak Bay (the former and the latter are apparently now one entity), the friendliness of the place was so refreshing, I would love to go again, only if I was 24 again though, mid 50's will not cut it

  • Comment number 7.

    A fair few good trips! St Etienne in 2007 was pretty spectacular - especially the fun and games of Le Glasgow. Last year in Auckland was also memorable (despite the result), locals were very much supporting Scotland and the whole vibe was just really friendly.

  • Comment number 8.

    A lot of great rugby memories. Tough tours to Cornwall and Swansea. And a tasty 10days in Bermuda in the 80's as part of a College team; narrowly losing to both Bermuda and Bermuda U21's, but what a crack!
    Edinburgh and Dublin to watch England lose in the 5/6N was a real bonus for a Welshman :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Roscoff,norther France 1983.
    As a university (then poly) rugby club to play a rugby tournament fully paid for by the students union. Problem was was that there was no tournament and no one took their boots. Except the scrum half who believed us when we said that we have matches on both days. He didnt find out until the captains run on the saturday morning when he was the only one down for breakfast. One slightly dodgy moment did occur when we did meet another club on tour who fancied a match. Luckily we were all too ill to play by that stage. An extensive tour report was written and published that recored that we were unbeaten (on tour, yeah I know ridiculous), until the final where we lost to an Italian invitation XV.

  • Comment number 10.

    Best ever away trip for me was San Sebastian 2005 HCup quarter final against Biarritz. OK we lost, but the whole town was jumping for the game, the sun shone, the beer was cold and the atmosphere electric.

    The only place to match the welcome I experienced there as a travelling supporter is Cape Town, where the locals really go out of their way to make the away support feel welcome.

  • Comment number 11.

    Parc des Princes, Paris, February 1995
    France 21 - Scotland 23
    Impromptu road trip from Brussels lead to 4 tickets procured at cost price on the street, with free beer thrown in, incredible and gracious atmosphere from French hosts.
    Followed by first victory there in almost 3 decades - Townsend to Hastings between the posts.
    Followed by tremendous, long night of bagpipes, dancing and general jubilation in 'phone boxes, on top of bars, though Metro tunnels.
    Hard to beat.

  • Comment number 12.

    Can't narrow it down to one but I can to two.
    The first was Dublin in 2000, being a rather large 16 year old I managed to find local bars more than willing to let me in with my older team mates which led to more than one loss of memory. Played two great games of rugby and wasn't too upset at the hiding we got at Landsdowne Road.
    Second was as a 22 year old and we went to Colorado after being invited by someone with contacts. Guys rugby clubs are the same the world over with warm welcomes and cold beers over flowing. It should noted on tour to America that a Kilt and a Scottish accent serves you very will with the Local females

  • Comment number 13.

    Rome is my personal favourite, we go as a group of between 8 and a dozen and have been each time Wales have played there since 2005. The atmosphere outside the Stadio Flamino both before and after the game was amazing and I only hope the Italians can replicate it at the Olympic stadium when we visit in 2013. The Italians are welcoming if a little bemused by Welshmen dressed as dragons and it still seems to be the only trip where the hotels and flights aren't yet a total rip off

  • Comment number 14.

    Having had the good fortune to play and spectate all over the world I feel hard pushed to choose a favourite but our club trip to play Superman RFC of Tokyo in 1988, returning their visit of 1985, must be up there especially after the WRU guy in charge of permissions to tour practically laughed at our outrageous plans for a three week tour to Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii and California. 45 of us had the time of our lives first of all getting rid of our initial excitement in Hong Kong where we couldn't play out of their season and then on to Japan where we experienced hospitality of the highest level and cemented life long friendships. Training and playing in 95 degrees was tough but what the heck when you get back to a pint and bar nibbles of raw jellyfish. The police in downtown Tokyo couldn't quite get the experience of seeing 20+ Welshmen in Ugatas (Japanese pyjamas) parading round at three in the morning but the Japanese like a laugh as much as the next man. On to Hawaii next where we stayed on Waikiki and played a tough bunch of Tongans aptly named Laie Rhinos. We changed in the open on the side of the pitch and showered in the Pacific. After a hard fought 10-10 draw these not very well off people entertained us with a beer and a pig roasted in the ground all morning before taking us on an evening of South Sea Islands culture. They were worried if their hospitality was up to scratch as we were the first touring side they had ever had, fantastic!!
    California next stop where we played Belmont Shore a side that JPR Williams played for in his year out in The US as part of his medical studies. They too played us in 1985 beating us 13-6 back then but we exacted revenge to finish the tour off on a high. Too many stories from the tour to print here but suffice to say everybody had the most memorable trip imaginable.

  • Comment number 15.

    The best rugby trip ever? Easy. About 6 years ago myself and 11 friends took our sevens team on a 2week, 5 state tour of American colleges. We were a mix of uni mates, team mates from our club and one random American who had never played before. Virginia. Georgia, Florida, Alabama and north Carolina. What a trip. We still talk about it today. The hospitality shown was second to none. I highly recommend anyone looking for an alternative to the usual European adventure heads stateside.

  • Comment number 16.

    Berlin 2001 with Copenhagen Exiles. Rugby in minor countries (rugby wise anyway) is a hoot.

    Taking my 14 and 8 year old to Dublin for the Edinburgh vs Ulster game for their first tour abroad and can't wait.

  • Comment number 17.

    John can i just ask does the famous rugby law come into this
    what gos on tour stays on tour
    Well many years ago as a young eager to please prop up from the hampshire
    a newly qulified doctor
    now working at world famous guys hospital
    it wasnt long before i moved from old codgers and young eagers to first team
    and i was ready for my first tour since a hellish tour at uni to the rugby capital of the world malta .
    Well the tour was finland , all i can say i paid my money and we went to finland played a couple of games but after the 2 nd game and drinking the strangest cocktail ever i woke stark naaked yes i wrote naaked for a reason finland is cold and i was tied to tree in a field with reindeer who didnt look the sort santa used , after calling out ,i was found by a nice unenglish farmer who coverd me up ,and called the local police who took great pity ,but it didnt end their ,somehow one of the policeman spoke great english as he supported liverpool and loved jhn barnes ,he told me he was going to a house to where a farmers wife was in labour ,and they needed to escort her to hospital , but to cut a very long story i help deliver my first child ,and every christmas i get a card from Andreas thanking me .
    When i did get back to the hotel and told them ,after the captain conformed my story i was player of the tour .
    Now thats a damn good clean story and after 17 years i still dont no the moral to the story . And if and old sods from guys are reading this thanks guys

  • Comment number 18.

    My favourite is definitely Eden Park, Auckland.

    Not the best stadium...but so much history...and if you're playing there as a know you are testing yourself against the best.

    For club rugby...i've never been but I would love to go to the new Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin and stand in the zoo. For now though i'll stick to Sandy Park!

  • Comment number 19.

    Tours were undoubtedly the best with several club tours around Europe in my mid-teens with the "lads", reaking havoc and having general frivolities.
    Then you have the other memories of sitting in a dusty coach/minibus as you all pile in at god knows what time in the morning and trundle on down the road for god knows how long for a match, where win or lose you all perk up, bond laugh and drink on the return leg.
    However my fondest recollections have to be of my first real away trip, as a spry 10 year old i was a very lucky sod indeed to get the opportunity to go on a 4 week rugby tour down under with my school. 6 matches 4 weeks great food great laughs great people and a great place, not more you can ask for really.
    Well maybe doing it again now we're all old enough to drink and not have thee parents tagging along trying to get holiday out of it might be nice, but all the same you can't beat going away be it for a day, a week, a month or longer if you can wrangle it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Never really had a proper away day abroad, but many good trips to murrayfield for Scotland and 1872 cup games.

    However, things like bus trips are the life blood of club rugby, which has been essentially killed off by Regionalising the league structure. While our Second XV may, bizarrely, still be a national club, our first XV are now in the Championship West, so our furthest games are Dumfries, Dunfermline (yeh, work that one out...), and Ardrossan. No more games to Howe of Fife or Morgan Academy for us. Some of my best experiences with my club have been on bus trips and there is just no scope for any more "epic" trips.

    While our seconds remain in the National league, the one decent bus trip with that has gone with Abderdeen Grammar being promoted, now that was a trip to end a season with....

  • Comment number 21.

    My brother tells me about a trip to Paris when he and and a friend were invited to stand on a table in the bar and sing the National Anthem. Which they did with gusto. The response? The 200 other people in the bar, all French, blast out the Marseillaise to two Brits standing on what was then a very lonely table. The atmosphere was electric and unforgettable; and a pleasure!

  • Comment number 22.

    A short weekend trip down with Edinburgh Northern Gents to Gosford in the lakes. We stayed in Wasdale Head, and played the "Costcutter" cup against a bunch hill farmers. The game was a dead heat, and the evenings festivities were brilliant. I've travelled to many glamorous destinations. But that weekend in Gosford is still my fondest rugby memory

  • Comment number 23.

    Flying all the way to a decimated Christchurch last year, spending the night in jail (don't worry John, just the Jailhouse Hostel), converting England fans to Scotland fans on the 9hr bus journey to Invercargill, stepping off the bus to a faceful of snow and then a long night of tartan and bagpipe fuelled shenanigans.
    Scotland even won a match I think!

    You couldn't have been further from Scotland or felt more at home.

    RWC 2011 was young, and Scottish hearts were full of hope.

    Heineken Cup final win with a uni mate from Bangor was pretty special too. The main road to Dublin was like a big car park of Ulster buses, and there is no way if Edinburgh make the final I'm missing out on getting to London for the match!

  • Comment number 24.

    Oh, and as a lad I always enjoyed the tournaments hosted by GHK. There's a somewhat superior quality of pies at Old Anniesland.

  • Comment number 25.

    I dont use twitter or facebookor anything like that but I would like to sharea couple of memorable trips/tours.As an 18 year old student at St. Lukes College Exeter in 1972 I travelled from Exeter to Cardiff to see Wales v England, Wales of course hammered England, Strangely I can remember very little of the match having met my mates from Milford Haven RFCbefore the match and gone on a real sesh. After the game more Brains beer and an impromptu game of rugby down Caroline Street [chippie/khebab alley] using a mates[Benjys] shoe as a ball. At midnight back to Central station the Milford boys got on their Richards Bros bus to head West, I had to catch a train to Exeter, one of the lads gave me his huge 12 foot Welsh flag as a parting gift. When I got to Bristol Temple Meads at about 2 am I had to change trains,on the platform I noticed a truck with post office trolleys so I planted my Welsh flag on the rear and shoe still in hand proceded to drive down the platform singing hymns and arias. Unfortunately the railway security were not amused[sore losers I expect] and they kicked me out of the station. I dont know whar Temple Meads is like now, but those days the bus station was right next to the train station so on the advice of a local I decided to doss down for the rest of the night and catch a bus to Weston Super Mare at 8 am andget on a train again there. At 8 I was awoken by my new friend who said the bus was just pulling in and fair enough 2 buses pulled up right outside the door,parked uptight to each other. Keen to get a window seat I jostled and pushed to get on the bus with shoe and flag still in hand. I got my window seat halfway down the bus flag bent double I fell asleep again. I woke upin Gloucester and said to the bloke sitting next to me "this is a long way to Weston Super Mare, he just said yes so I went back to sleep, the next time I awoke the bus was stopped and people were getting off, I then discovered we were at a shunting yard just outside Birmingham and I was on a trainspotters outing to Derby ! I explained my situation to one of the organisers and he suggested I go in to New Street station to catch a train to Exeter,warre teg [fair does] they gave me a can of coke and a mars bar and directions. When I got to the station I realised I only had a couple of coppers so I bought a platform ticket and hopped on the midday train to Plymouth. I managed to avoid the ticket collector but when I got off in Exeter I was found out and called to the%

  • Comment number 26.

    aw man. how i wish i was going to Dublin for Saturday's game! this has been my first full season of properly following Scottish club rugby, having previously been football mad. since Rangers demise, and the lack of European action with the Scottish teams, i decided it would be interesting to follow Glasgow and Edinburgh as they play teams outwith Scotland every week.
    it is also coincidental that both clubs are collectively enjoying perhaps their most successful campaigns. Edinburgh's Heineken Cup performances have been delightful and a joy to watch. whilest Glagow's doggedness in the league, highlighted by last weekends narrow, yet vital win, has shown another side on how to play rugby.
    picuture this- Edinburgh Heineken Cup champions, and Glasgow Rabodirect champions. strongest European league and cup competitions. unlikely, but you have to be in it to win it! good luck to both and good blog! :)

  • Comment number 27.

    South Africa World Cup 1995 for 3 weeks and to be at the ultimate fairy tale final....will never be bettered.

  • Comment number 28.

    Each trip is an absolute blast and I'd struggle to pick one over any others from my first university tours (stories withheld to protect the guilty), through to Six nations games and then trips to France for the '07 WC and South Africa in '09 for the Lions.

    France was a fun one drinking in the Wallace Bar and Le Moari Cafe, meeting a french team that were twinned with Cumbernauld thus supporting Scotland in the upcoming Italy game. Excellent group of lads that gave us a lift to St Ettiene for the game, took us to a pre-match party and would have kept us out all night had our flight home not been at an ungodly hour the following day!

  • Comment number 29.

    Best rugby tour i have ever been on was a school one. As part of the Millenium my school went on a combined rugby/hockey tour of Canada for 2.5 weeks in the summer. It was the summer after I'd left school so the sixth year amongst us had a bit more freedom and some crafty homemade IDs made sure we got into the bars. Those 2.5 weeks playing rugby with my friends, seeing Canada and meeting so many good people will stay with me for ever.
    In recent years there have been a few more hedonistic tours with my current club during the six nations and without a doubt Cardiff has been my favorite place. Both for the people, the city, their love of everything rugby and the atmosphere in the Millenium stadium. I've been lucky enough to be there the last two times Scotland have played and this year with the roof shut, the male choir and all the pre-match entertainment I was awe-struck. Looking forward to many more.

  • Comment number 30.

    Best away trip i've been on while playing was clearly the tour to Lyon to take part in an international 10's tournament (which we came 3rd in) because the atmosphere was incredible. It was epitomised by the kicking contest we had with a French team who we had just knocked out of the competition which was played with great spirit. I think for an advertisement of commaraderie and unity in rugby it couldn't have done a better job as teams from Samoa, Romania, France, Italy, Argentina and many other nations came together. It was a tour never to be forgotten. As A fan of Harlequins the best away day has to be Headingley on the last day of the season as the atmosphere was brilliant even though Leeds were getting relagated

  • Comment number 31.

    My most perfect rugby tour moment was in the Isle of Man. Against all odds, form, probability, etc, we had somehow managed to win a tour match in the morning, against a team that we had seen commiting the heinous crime of jogging along the seafront on the morning before the game.
    Now I found myself in post match glow, sitting watching Boroughmuir play Vagabonds with pint in hand.
    There was a great view of the sun sparkling on the sea, snow on the hill tops, and a pretty girl sat next to me.
    Gould life really get any better?
    Oh yes it could. As the knot slipped free on my best mates tour tag, and it slipped unseen into my pocket, I just knew he was in for a beasting in court the next morning.
    Sorry Pepper, but at least you feature in my most perfect moment.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi John,

    Its great to have you back blogging again and this one was a real treat. Everyone loves touring and many a school common room has seen expressions such as 'lads on tour' , 'lads when are we going on tour? lol jk we are always on tour...', and the infamous pseudonym WTBFTBOT (With the boys- for the boys- on tour).

    I too remember my first every rugby tour, playing for Ashville college aged 11 to North Berwick as it so happens. The rugby was enjoyed by all but i am afraid the food was terrible. This was of course before the professional era in 1990 and Scotland's cuisine did not meet our rigorous dietary requirements at the time. As a student studying in Edinburgh the situation is now however different, as two steak bakes for £2 tends to suffice.

    More to the point John I'd like to draw on touring on a wider theme, bringing the West Indies tour of england in 2000 into the mix. Everyone knows that touring is at its greatest with a massive set of blokes (who tend to ridicule the lesser blokes in the tour party but the lesser blokes are still lads if that makes any sense).

    June 2000 saw jimmy adams captain the first test and command England throughout at Edgbaston (a really great ground to watch cricket---- anyone reading check for parking before you go etc as a bit of a nuisance). England lost by an innings and 93 runs and i gather shiverine chanderpaul was loving the tour so much at this stage that he proceeded to forfeit his west Indian passport on a dance floor that night in conjuction with singing fedde le grandes infamous ‘I love this city’ etc. You see these are the daft things that happen when lads are on tour! Ha ha great times john. However,

    Lords is a notoriously difficult place to tour to mainly as the members in the long room shout stuff like ‘ou est ton technique???’ etc to provoke the visiting players- so classic. Needless to say, England dominated in the lords test. And the headingley test. And the oval test. This was fundamentally due to Darren goughs 25 wickets and Michael athertons 311 runs- both of which was scored at exquisite averages and demonstrating the sentiment that although ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’, in reality ‘what stays on the floor goes for four’

    Great to have you back John you absolute stalwhart- always loved touring myself and drinking hundreds of pints.


  • Comment number 33.

    Arrived in Dublin. There was a time when "what goes on your stays on tour" but I suspect this trip it might be about nothing in particular.

  • Comment number 34.

    As a PE teacher, the best tour destination has to be S.Africa. We've taken our school there five times and had an absolute blast in a variety of cities around the country. A great rugby country with loads to offer. Cape Town has to be the ultimate destination, but if you're looking for a post match party, 80s Nightclub (about 100yards from Kings Park) is the place. The adjacent rugby pitches get covered by locals cooking on Braais and downing Castle Lager and the atmosphere rocks. Was there in 2004 when The Boks won the Tri Nations - incredible!!!!


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