The most vital component of any inbound rugby tour is the fixtures and as Noordvaal are a very strong side they needed some testing fixtures against quality opposition with good post-match hospitality. The rest of the tour was created around the fixtures we arranged against Twickenham RFC, in London, Lymm High School and Wilmslow High School in Manchester, and Pentrych RFC in Cardiff.
The group arrived at heathrow airport on a rainy Thursday morning and were greeted by inbound sports tour manager Daniel Smith and quickly loaded onto the executive coach driven by our friendly, helpful driver Dave. The coach remained with the group for the duration of the tour as did Dave. We had already planned in advance to explore the city by coach with a knowledgeable tour guide who showed everyone the sights on a 3 hour tour of the city. After this the group checked into their accommodation and it was time to head off to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen for a hearty meal for all 44 of them, again booked in advance.
Here's some footage of the guys training at the Stoop
On Monday morning it was time to leave the Big Smoke and board the coach for a journey north to Manchester. The group went straight to Old Trafford for a stadium tour; this was a good time to visit, as the stadium was building up to host the rugby league Superleague Grand Final, and Wigan Warriors were actually just leaving their press conference as we arrived. Following the tour, we transferred back to central Manchester where the players and coaches checked into their accommodation, and we all went over the road for dinner. We had reserved an entire restaurant in advance, and enjoyed some good food and drinks together as we looked forward to the rugby challenges ahead.
There followed two days of excellent fixtures. Lymm High School was a brilliant venue for the group, out in the Cheshire plains. The squad and travelling supporters were treated to a welcome by the head of rugby and headmistress as well as a quick tour of the school, including the trophy cabinet proudly displaying last year's Daily Mail Cup and several framed England shirts from ex pupils. The game was a great spectacle, with Noord Vaal going out to an 11 point half time lead, which they maintained in an expansive second half, winning by 20 points to 9. There followed some heartfelt speeches on both sides and more good food than we could put away!
The following day the group spent the late morning and early afternoon shopping at the Trafford Centre before travelling out to Wilmslow High School for what was to prove the toughest game of the tour. Wilmslow had the smaller pack but looked stronger in midfield, which helped them manage the wet conditions better than the visitors. It was a physical encounter and Wilmslow's tight game helped them overhaul Noord Vaal's first half lead to win 13 - 7 in front of a large school crowd. More post match food and speeches followed before heading back to Manchester for their final evening in the city. Below is a video of Noord Vaal's opening try in the Wilmlslow game.
Friday gave the boys a chance to relax. Their large squad had enabled them to pick different teams for the last three fixtures, but they now had a couple of days to enjoy sightseeing and culture before flying home. Many visited the Millennium Stadium, whose situation at the heart of the city represents just how important rugby is in these parts. Others saw the castle, went shopping in the covered arcades dotted around the city, or relaxed in one of the many cafes around town. Everyone was back together in time for their evening meal which we had organised in advance. A good night's sleep followed, before heading back into England the following day.
Here's the group in the press room at Millennium Stadium.
A few days after the tour, one of their tour managers e-mailed Tours 4 Sport to say the following:
Tours 4 Sport are specialists in inbound sports tours to the UK. To experience the best sport, history and culture in the country, contact us to start planning your trip today. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 161 282 4512