Monday 15th September
As the official tour historian and resident Classicist, it seemed right for me to follow in the footsteps of fellow historians, George and Ian, and take on the temporary role of tour scribe. Tired and hung-over from the previous night’s post-match festivities, the morning certainly began slowly for the tour party. Rugby related activities had, thankfully, been put on hold for the day and so the first challenge the group faced came in the form of an adversely larger than normal bowl of porridge. Aside from the digestion of breakfast and the consumption of auxiliary chocolate milk, the squad did little beyond the sedentary. Having eaten lunch in our hotel, we began to prepare for an afternoon in the centre of St Petersburg. Weary heads and tired bodies made for slow progress: It took an hour for us to go from the hotel lobby to the hotel steps, a further half an hour to get to the subway station, and another half hour to make it into the centre of the city. At this point of course the larger members of the squad had now grown hungry and so, as opposed to setting out on an exploration into the cultural gems of the city, we made a b-line for a hot dog stand. Our hunger briefly sated, we, through the help of tour translator Matt Janny, managed to acquire ourselves a sightseeing boat and so set out to experience the ‘Venice of the North’ from the water itself. The rather peculiar and striking Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood was particularly noteworthy, as were the renowned Winter Palace and Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. The boat also provided both the perfect platform for the daily Duma and the opportunity for recounting the antics of last night. Though the Neva River had already been given the green light by resident submarine ‘Symo-the-Sub’, its canals and tributaries had not. However, following a quick dip in some questionably coloured water (and this time indeed, whilst partially clothed at least), the Sub affirmed their safety and gave the all clear. The group soon hungry again settled on a Georgian restaurant and convened to feed. The food, though delicious, definitely provided evidence against the commonly bounded about notion that ‘size isn’t everything’. Indeed, George Messum, notorious fast food connoisseur, had to supplement the meal with an additional Subway.
Tuesday 16th September
This morning was rather antithetical to the last: in contrast to a relaxing morning of eating and sleeping, fitness at 7.15am was on the cards. Indeed, the main ethos of the day was to dust out any cobwebs that might still be lingering from the slow pace of the previous day. A round robin competition of multidirectional touch between the front five, backrow and centres, and halfbacks and outside-halves was marred in controversy: the smaller men of the side ganged up on those larger to rob them of what was perceived by many to be a hard earned victory. Having eaten the now customary porridge and boiled egg combo (a Lewis Anderson special), the squad was then subjected to physical torture by recently flown out S & C coach Sean Morris via a horrendous abs and circuit session – the body weight orientated nature of the session in conjunction with the morning’s controversies left some questioning whether Sean had in fact some sort of personal vendetta against the front five. Having dined on an unidentifiable meat form (possibly poulet), the party convened for a team meeting in order to analyse the weekend’s game. Despite scoring 83 points and only conceding 3 against St Petersburg State University, the whole squad clearly acknowledged some key areas of improvement (most noteably our ball retention, effectiveness at rucking, and basic ball skills) and recognised that we will have to attain higher levels of performance if we are to be successful against RC Slava on Saturday. In light of our poor basic ball skills in the previous match, the afternoon’s session largely focused on this facet of our skill sets. The rest of the day was largely spent eating whole chickens, drinking chocolate milk, and reenergising our bodies in preparation for what is anticipated to be several hard days of training. Having had a day of relaxtion previously, the intense nature of today was much welcomed. With the big game of the tour only a handful of days away, there is a real sense of excitement and focus within the tour party.
Yours In Dark Blue, Fergus Taylor