In traditional OURFC fashion, the Men’s Blues tour started with an early departure from a pitch black Iffley Road with half-asleep players bumping into each other as they collected bags and boarded the bus. Just as it appeared that for the first time in OURF history the bus would leave at the appointed hour of 0530, Dan Barley leapt from his seat, jumped off the bus and sprinted up James Street back to his house! Everyone automatically assumed he had left his passport behind, however it transpired his kit bag was open on his 150 yard walk and his breakfast croissant had fallen out – priorities! The journey down the M40 and M25 was then smooth as was a relatively quiet check-in at Heathrow Terminal 4, before the party settled down to breakfast at various locations. The then obligatory game of ‘airport cricket’ was then cancelled as Team Secretary Sam Miller nervously admitted he had left the bat on the bus, a suitable fine will I am sure be forthcoming in due course!
Approx. 18 hours later the tour party safely touched down at Narita airport, Tokyo after a stop-over in Abu Dhabi, the only incident of note was Ryan Jones claiming his passport was stolen, only for it to turn up in his ruck sack after all! The party were met by Mitsubishi RFC representative Kato, holding aloft a welcome to Japan Oxford University Rugby Club sign, with the OURFC crown proudly displayed – I am sure this welcome augurs well for the Men’s Blues first trip to Japan since 2006 as the club maintains their strong links to the country going right back to 1952 and the first sports team to visit since the end of the war.
A two-hour bus journey through the sights of Downtown Tokyo followed, as the party headed to their visit destination of the Toyoko Inn Sagamihara, prior to the first match against an All Mitsubishi XV on Saturday morning. The time spent travelling was not wasted, as joint Team Secretary’s Sam Miller and Seb Haddock, handed out the ‘Tour Roles’, perhaps the biggest cheer came when Captain Ed David was named in the ‘Boy Band’ for the fifth consecutive year! More to follow on the exploits of the various tour roles in future editions of the tour diary!
The day finished with a team meal in a local Japanese Restaurant, not the easiest task to negotiate a good deal for a party for 29 as tour Translator Jasper Dix found out to his consternation! Two hours later, some of the party were well fed – in particular Head Coach James Wade – whilst others remained hungry as more than 14 dishes remained undelivered! A discount was negotiated and the hungry headed to the local pizza house, lesson number 1 learned!
The day concluded with S & C Coach Sy Wiggall being severely being reprimanded by the hotel management as he led the squad in a yoga/stretch session on the ‘quiet floor’ of the hotel, so at approx. 2130 the party headed to bed for some much needed shut eye!
Day 3 of tour started with a traditional Japanese breakfast in the hotel, before departing for the Mitsubishi Dynoboars Ground for a training session to prepare for the match on Saturday vs the All Mitsubishi XV. Thankfully the heavy cloud cover kept the temperature around the 20 degree mark allowing the players to enjoy a good 90 minute session before lunch. The afternoon saw the party taken on a tour of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry Plant, the engineers amongst the group being particularly excited by this prospect with Ryan Jones endeavoring to secure an internship for next summer! Learning about the intricacies of how to make turbo chargers and large industrial diesel engines, only fueled the appetite of the boys who were delighted to see the ‘feast’ awaiting them at the Welcome Party prepared by their hosts. Before tucking into the mountain of food, the party were formally welcomed by the President of the All Mitsubishi RFC, also the owner of the Kirin Brewery wo of course then received a rapturous round of applause at the prospect of his product being in plentiful supply post-game on Saturday! Following the sumptuous feast, the players were introduced to their host family, all except San Miller who appeared to be ‘homeless’ for a few minutes until he was claimed by Ozawa san who had been busy introducing the other families, much to Sam’s relief! The boys then said their farewells as they headed off to various parts of Sagamihara and Tokyo with their hosts to enjoy an evening of Japanese culture before meeting up on Saturday morning for game 1.