A slightly later wake up time was scheduled today as we weren’t heading to the gym. Instead a leisurely breakfast was followed by a team excursion to the park for some stretching and foam rolling. This was also a chance to check in with our training buddies and talk about how things had been going over the summer, discuss team and individual goals for the match, and generally get hyped for the season! We then headed to Poblenou’s stadium, which was hosting a whole day rugby festival featuring all of their age-range teams, and both men’s and women’s senior teams. The stadium sits right on the shores of the Med, with palm trees all around, and is a top-notch artificial pitch which we were all very excited to get the chance to play on. After watching the preceding match (CN Poblenou v Valencia) we started our first warm up of the season. Before we knew it, we were running out through a tunnel of Poblenou players in our amazing Rhino tour kit and lining up ready for kick off. The match was a really exciting occasion for this team for a variety of reasons. It was our first match of the new season and a chance for people to put down markers as we go into the competitive run-up to Varsity. For some players, it was one of their first matches for the Blues, and a chance to prove themselves at this level. Although the score line did not end in our favour (34-12 to Poblenou), there were a lot of positives to take away from the match. Considering this was only the second day of preseason, our structure and organisation were excellent even with a lot of changes made. Every single player showed why they deserved to be selected for the tour, and it’s obvious there are going to be some selection headaches to come in the rest of the season. We then joined CN Poblenou’s players for a delicious meal and a chance to get to know each other better. There were drinking games, tokens of appreciation and thank yous were exchanged, and many Poblenou players were spotted wandering the streets of Barcelona the following days wearing their new OURFC tops! We then ventured out to experience Barcelona’s nightlife, knowing we had the following day to recover.
We spent this day nursing sore bodies (and heads in some people’s cases). Various squad members ventured into Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, sampled some tapas and paella, or went to the beach. The day was finished by a squad trip to Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona. The stadium is comparable to Twickenham in some ways, and so we spent some time as a squad talking about how it feels to run out onto the world stage for your sport. We were sure to be back at the hotel in time for an early night, ready for another jam-packed day!
Our fourth day on tour started with an intense gym session with some mobility, high intensity intervals, and upper body weights. A group of very sweaty girls then headed back to the hotel where there were physio slots with Liam all morning for anyone with any niggles left after the game. Those of us not needing physio treatment headed to the beach for some chill time and a recovery swim. In the afternoon we were back at CEM Besos with the incredible Graham Smith, who was the forwards coach to Gary Street’s backs coach when England women won the world cup in 2014. This was one of the most intense but rewarding training sessions we had on tour. Forwards and backs split, with backs focusing on kicking whilst the forwards worked on body management. We then swapped with the backs also focusing on body management, whilst the forwards worked on handling. The session finished with a grueling set of shuttles, with every squad member working hard and supporting their teammates. We then had a brief stop at the hotel to shower and change before heading to the Sagrada Familia for the evening. Some team members decided to book to go inside, which was an incredible experience and a real highlight of our time in Barcelona.
Our last day in Barcelona started with another gym session, with a focus on body management that we had worked on in training with Graham the previous day. We then headed to CEM Besos for a final training session. We focused on defensive structure through several drills and games. At the beginning of the tour our coaches had emphasised that work rate was a non-negotiable, and this session was a notable example of how much every girl had taken this to heart. To finish the session, we did sprint races overseen by Coach Moggy and then our captain Abby set us a bear crawl and push-up challenge. Although we were all tired and hurting following a week of intense training, every single person got through the challenge and supported each other through it. We then managed to drag our battered selves to the beach for another of Liam’s recovery sessions, which once again were greatly amusing to the locals and our coach Fran. To finish tour with a bang, we headed to a local bar to open court proceedings. Anyone guilty of any misdemeanours throughout tour were fined heavily, and it was a chance to celebrate some of the best moments of tour. We then headed off (minus the coaches who had tickets to the Barcelona game‼) to our final tour activity, a team meal at a restaurant famous for their Paella! The team tucked in to a frankly ridiculous amount of paella, and we all shared our favourite memories of what had been a very special week in Barcelona!
This was the day when we headed for home after an amazing week of training. And although the day ended up being slightly longer than planned due to a 3 hour flight delay, there was an overwhelmingly positive team spirit as we filled the time with handling practice, games of Codenames and lots of singalongs! It was emotional saying goodbye as we reached home, but then we realised… we’ll all see each other tomorrow as we still have 10 more days of preseason training to go!
Thank yous, this is tour would not have been possible without the help of a huge number of people:
Firstly, thanks to our coaches:-Moggy, Jason (who stepped in for our backs coach Luke), and Fran who ran all our fun and educational training sessions.
A massive thank you to our link to Poblenou, and guest coach, Graham Smith. It’s always a privilege to be coached by one of the best in the world, and he really was our Spanish guide throughout our time in Barcelona.
A big thanks to Liam, our team physio, who ran mobility sessions, looked after our injuries, and ran our beach recovery sessions that became tourist attractions.
Thanks to all the team at CN Poblenou for a great game and social afterwards.
Thanks to all the squad members involved in the organisation of the whole week, particularly our captain Abby and secretary Susy, for hours of admin work and organisation throughout our time away.
Thanks to OURFC General Manager Tim Stevens, for all his organisational help and support from Oxford.
A huge thanks to our sponsors, without whom this tour would not be possible. To Vodafone for being our tour sponsor, Rhino teamwear for our incredible tour stash and Kinetica for keeping us supplied with supplements.