Friday 9th September
At 4am an excited, yet somewhat delirious, tour party convened at Iffley Road. While travelling in large groups can be notoriously tricky, our journey from Oxford to Gatwick to Marseille appeared to have gone off without a hitch. That is until we made it to passport control, and Paul Childs informed the party that he had left his passport on the plane. The mishaps did not end there. Five minutes into our journey from the airport to our hotel two members of the tour party, ashamedly the current writer and a certain Joe Morris, realised that they had left their suitcase at the airport. A mad dash to retrieve said luggage, before it was destroyed in a controlled explosion by the French police ensued and our native French speaker, Will ‘Billy Bob’ Thornton, proved to be of great help when we realised a lady had kindly locked the bag away in a store cupboard for us. Drama aside, the rest of our first day was productive and pleasant. After settling in to our respective rooms and a spot of lunch the squad had a team run through in preparation for Saturday’s ‘Double Header’ versus Le Seyne and Toulon Espoirs.
Saturday 10th September
Saturday marked the first full day in Toulon, and if anyone had doubted James Wade’s assurance that this ‘was not a holiday, but a high performance rugby tour’, these doubts were quashed by S & C coach Sy Wiggal and his hawkish control over everyone’s choice of cereal. Indeed, we all quickly found out that the granola with chocolate chunks was not a reasonable breakfast choice, although some were more shocked by this than others. After a light team run through and some R and R, the rest of the day revolved around the build up to the two games that we were to play that evening. The squad set out from St Cyr Sur le Mer, to a stadium in the centre of Le Seyne for two floodlit evenings games. It must be noted, however, that our rugby skills were not the only thing tested this evening, and the driving of our coaching staff left some players genuinely scared for their own welfare. Thankfully we all made it unscathed in time for kick-off for two games that proved to be physical, fast, and well contested affairs. I think there is much to be taken from this evening, and the performances of OURFC’s two newest recruits were outstanding. On a lighter note, tonight was also a chance for the team to fashion some new apparel, which some have described as closely resembling a sports bra, and it must be said that although Tom Stileman looked terrific as always, Fergus Taylor looked particularly fetching.
Sunday 11th September
After the previous nights clashes with Le Seyne and Toulon, Sunday was a chance for the boys to let their hair down a bit . Certainly, everyone was settling into their tour roles nicely. Jacob Goss on news and weather has been a fixture of our entertainment over breakfast, his ability to balance local news and report events on a global scale suggests, to me anyway, a quite promising career path. A bit later the boys donned their finest swim wear, and made their way down to the beach for a well earned recovery swim. With many starting to get a decent tan, and others sporting a questionable shade of rouge, Will Wilson really got into his stride as tour ‘health and safety officer’ by making sure all present were protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Indeed, today was also the day that another member of our party really embraced his tour role. Having made our way to Toulon to watch the America’s Cup sailing, Ollie Adams reprieved Fergus Taylor’s role of tour ‘submarine’. I think we are all slightly more grateful to Mr Adams for testing that the sea was safe, than the poor French children who had to witness his pale bottom emerge from the water. The rest of the day was spent sunbathing and swimming before we met for dinner by the beach. At dinner we were graced with the presence of tour ‘celebrity’ George Blomfield who, after making a grand entrance stopped for photos with the restaurant’s staff and owners, then continued to sign autographs. Special credit must go to Nic Roberts-Huntley who has made sure our ‘celeb’ has been given the star treatment he deserves, and who really helped out his new best friend by announcing to all present that George was going to give a pre-dinner speech about his troubled past. After dinner we were treated to the first performance by the tour ‘boy band’. WOW. Conor Kearns on lead vocals was a sight to behold. However, the sound made by Will Thornton was not so pleasant, and, at times, could be compared to the noise made by two rutting foxes. Such a criticism should not detract from the performance as a whole, which was superb, and had the entire restaurant clapping along. Training resumes again on Monday in full flow, and there is talk of a particularly large session in the afternoon.
Monday 12th September
Over breakfast we were treated to the usual entertainment. Of course this meant another instalment of Goss on news and weather, it also meant that Hugo Lu, as tour historian, provided us with a glimpse into Toulon’s past. Yet, it must be said that Hugo does often blur the line between historical fact and absurd fabrication. One of our tour jester’s has also seemed to have taken a slightly darker turn. Joe Morris’ jokes, which were once strictly PG, could now sit on the top shelf of HMV or Blockbuster (one for the older readers) alongside the 18s. It is fair to say that this change in tone has been met with mixed reactions, some calling for an embargo on the more adult material, while others (postgrad Pete) are loving it. After breakfast the forwards headed off to the gym, while the backs made their way to a training session which was led by the former director of rugby of the French national team Philippe Saint-Andre. Those present have reported to me that it was a productive session, and that Philippe provided the backs with some great insights. One, in particular, stands out. Apparently, after running a strike move Philippe, the former French winger, approached blindside winger Ed David. Ed had failed to track the inside shoulder of the fly-half, to which Philippe commented: ‘what are you doing out there, having a jam sandwich?’ This afternoon the forwards made their way to the beach for a paddle boarding session with an instructor who looked like a cross between Bob Sinclair (of 00’s dance music fame) and the old blonde guy out of the movie Point Break (Gary Busey). Although we had only booked an hour, Will Wilson (tour Health and Safety officer) was glad that the safety briefing lasted nearly forty minutes. In any case, it would have been fine as the group were in the safe hands of steady surfer and incredible listener Dr. Nic Roberts-Huntley who apparently had been paddle boarding many times. However, judging by Nic’s disappointing performance I don’t think you’d have been able to tell. The afternoon saw the whole squad put ‘sports bras’ back on ready for an extremely intense session in 30 degree heat on the rubber crumb. It is fair to say that we were worked pretty hard, with one member of the squad’s heart rate being clocked at 212 beats per minute!! Despite this skill levels remained impressively high, and the effort throughout the session characterised the tour as a whole so far.
Yours in Dark Blue.