Senior Rugby Tour France 2019

1st XV Squad ready for their departure to Bordeaux

On 18th December 2019, the LGS 1st XV Rugby Squad set off for their tour of France along with teachers Mr Cartmill, Mr Stirling and Mr Rea.  The first day almost fully consisted of travelling with a meeting time of 6:30am at the school for a 2-hour bus journey to Dublin where our flight for Bordeaux departed at 11:05am.  It was a fast turnaround in Dublin Airport with a 10:40am meeting time at the gate.  This caused trouble for many squad members as the service at the airport’s Burger King was not as fast as expected and caused several members to be late.  Once everyone had arrived at the gate we boarded the flight for Bordeaux.  The arrival time in Bordeaux was 2:00pm and once all luggage had been collected we set off on our second bus journey of the day to our first destination of accommodation – La Cite Verte Sports Complex located roughly 2 hours from Bordeaux.  This is where our training program would be held and we would be staying for the next three days.  Once we had arrived at our accommodation, we had a 1-hour break before our first training session of the tour.  This was quite a light training session focusing on mainly handling and attacking structure as it had been a long day of travelling for the team and we needed to be well rested for the following days of training. Once the team was finished training it was time for dinner which wasn’t exactly what we expected.  I’d have to say that I did not recognise anything apart from yogurt but we knew we had to eat as we had a tough few days coming up.

The second day had a 9:00am breakfast time followed by a 90-minute gym session where the team worked hard and got the exercises completed early which meant we had to endure one of Mr Stirling’s extra workouts which everyone dreads doing.

Gym warm up

We then had lunch which everyone managed to force down and then our second pitch session of tour. This session was a more intense session with Mr Cartmill introducing a new attacking setup to the team through many live drills and decision making drills.  The team performed well as we all knew we had to make the most of this program and knew it would help our attack in our up coming matches.  That night there was to be our first match but the opposition had pulled out providing us with the opportunity to complete another pitch session which we focused further on what we had worked on earlier.  After dinner, and this session, we all met in the conference room to take part in Mr Rea’s Sports Quiz.  This was a very competitive affair which was eventually won by the brainbox team of Robbie Doey, Cain Cooke and Scott Alexander.  We had the rest of the night free to ourselves which was seen as a good thing as we were all tired and knew we had another day of tough training to come.

Mr Rea’s Sports Quiz

The third day had an even earlier start with breakfast beginning at 7:45am where the sanctions were handed out for the instances of lateness from the previous day.  These punishments included singing and putting on a performance for the team which encouraged everyone start to get to sessions on time to avoid these!  We then had 2 training sessions – one in the gym and one on the pitch.  The gym session was a competitive upper body session with the winners having to get the most amount of reps possible within a certain time period for each exercise.  My team of myself, Scott Alexander and Tom Meban won this exercise and thankfully were able to miss the core set to follow as our reward.  We then had our pitch session which was a team run for our upcoming match.  Slippery conditions and tired legs made this session somewhat stressful for some players but we made the most of it and were able to introduce our new structures into our gameplay.  It was then time for lunch and then shortly after we departed for Pau where we would be having a professionally lead training session by the club’s junior academy coach and an ex-player of the club.  The team found this low intensity session very useful as the coaches focused a lot on the small details of tackle technique.  

1st XV Squad with Pau Senior Coaches

After this session the coaches had booked bowling for the team where everyone put money in and the team with the highest score got the winnings.  In the first game my team was in the lead but with a run of 0 scores from Scott Alexander we slipped behind the other teams.  Once the team had enjoyed the bowling we persuaded the teachers to allow us to go to the supermarket opposite where we enjoyed filling our bags with recognisable food and drinks.  I have to say this lifted the moral of the group.  We arrived back to the accommodation from Pau at 8:30pm with dinner scheduled for our arrival.  We had the rest of the night free to get some well deserved rest before our match the next morning.

Post match photo with Txingudi Rugby Club

We had an early breakfast the next day and departed for Txingudi Rugby Club in Irun, Spain where we would play our match.  We arrived at the Spanish rugby club early so we had a lot of time to get ready and warm up before our match.  The pitch was like a ploughed field with patches of dry ground but the majority was cut up, muddy and wet.  We had a good high intensity warm up making us ready for the somewhat unknown opposition.  The game kicked off and within the first 15 minutes we were 3 tries up courtesy of Callum Adair (2) and Tre Britton (1).  We then knew that we had to put a high point score on this team.  The first half ended at 32-0 to LGS.  We had basically starved the opposition of ball and not allowed them any space to attack.  The second half started with a series of big carries from our No. 8 Caelan Campbell and Scrum Half Jack Moore picking gaps around the edges of rucks.  These carries and quick thinking lead to a series of tries for players throughout the team with 2 tries from Glenn Carson who was later awarded man of the match for his big carries and 40m run leading to one of his scores.  The match ended Txingudi 0-75 LGS.  We shook hands and spirits were high we enjoyed a post-match meal supplied by our opposition which was interesting as we had to try to understand their Spanish which was even difficult for the pupils that studied the language.  

Players and coaches from both teams enjoy some authentic Spanish Paella before exchanging gifts

We then departed the rugby club for our second accommodation in the town of Biarritz.  We arrived and had 30 mins to get showered and ready for our city tour.  The tour started well with the weather being around 20 degrees – far warmer than expected but this soon changed due to the geography of Biarritz explained by our tour guide and it suddenly became roughly 8 degrees and pouring down with rain and of course we weren’t dressed appropriately for this with all of us in bottoms and a hoodie which were all soaked through by the end of the tour.  The tour ended after an interesting 2 hours of walking and we were then allowed 1 hour in the town centre to do some Christmas shopping which a number of us needed to do including me.

Walking Tour of Biarritz

The coaches had then organised a meal out for the whole squad at a nearby burger restaurant which served up probably the best burger I have ever eaten with some chips and drinks.  We were all extremely thankful for this as it was a good return to eating recognisable food.  We then had the night free with somewhat more entertainment at the hotel than the training facility but our fun didn’t last long as we all wanted our sleep before the next morning.

We woke up the next morning expecting to be going out in the water to surf but to only be told that it had been cancelled due to stormy conditions.  We were disappointed until Mr Stirling told us that we would be doing bubble football instead.  We were very excited for this as it is something that we had all done before and knew how fun it is.  When we arrived at the bubble football we were told that we would play three different games but realistically we didn’t care, we just wanted to be able to run and bounce into each other.  This lead to many big collisions including Glenn Carson vs Stuart McAlister which didn’t end well for Stu.  The bubble football was some of the best fun that we’d had on tour even though it ended with people having some cuts and bruises.

Highest intensity session of the week – Bubble Football!

We then had a 1-hour period of free time to go and get lunch.  My group walked around Biarritz for ages finding somewhere and we finally found somewhere that did pizza at a decent price as we knew we had a long journey ahead to Bordeaux.

After lunch we were straight on the bus to Bordeaux to go and see Bordeaux-Begles play La Rochelle in the Top 14 French rugby division.  We arrived with moments to spare before kick off and we instantly noticed how different the French rugby atmosphere was compared to home.  The place was buzzing.  Everyone playing their part in cheering on their teams compared to the same old chants of “stand up for the Ulster men”.  The game ended up with the 2nd in division Bordeaux taking the win.

Incredible atmosphere at the Matmut Atlantique

We then departed for the two and a half hour bus journey back to Biarritz where we were kept entertained by Mr Cartmill’s singing and Jack Lough’s ‘funny’ jokes.  We arrived back at the hotel and dinner was ready almost instantly.  We then all went straight to bed as we had a very early start in the morning for our return back home.

Breakfast was at 5:30am and to everyone’s surprise nobody was late.  We then got on the bus to Toulouse which I’d say nearly everyone on the bus slept for the majority of.  Our flight from Toulouse was leaving at 11:30am meaning that we had a bit of time to get last minute gifts and food but there wasn’t much available in the airport so I basically lived off Pringles for the day.  When boarding the plane, the squad was in a bit of panic as Ben Hodge had somehow lost his boarding pass meaning the teachers weren’t at the gate until 15 minutes after the meeting time so the senior members of the squad had to make the decision to get on the plane without them.  Luckily the teachers arrived just about on time and everyone made the journey back to Dublin safely.  All we had left of the long day of travelling was the 2-hour bus journey back to Larne which was probably the quietest I’d heard everyone all of tour, probably because we were all knackered.

Safe arrival back in Dublin

I would just like to thank Mr Stirling, Mr Cartmill and Mr Rea for organising this trip and hopefully we can put everything we learnt into practice in the rest of our season.

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