The joy of rugby tours
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With the Irish touring New Zealand, the Welsh and Scottish touring Australia and the English pitting their wares against the South Africans, it got me thinking how much fun it is to host these teams from the north and witness the fun they will have on tour in our part of the globe. Times you never forget, or perhaps wish to?
As a Wallaby fan I had a moment of reflection to ponder what was my favourite touring destination to not only watch the greatest game of all but fully immerse myself in the local custom and fully expose my hosts to the ‘Uncle’ on tour!
The weekends in Sydney were fun pre-Olympic Stadium days, when the Test match was played at the Sydney Football Stadium on a Saturday at 3:15pm. The obligatory pub crawl through Paddington starting about 11am, the Royal, the Bellevue, the Four-In-Hand, a handle at the Lord Dudley, the game, back to the Light Brigade.
By now the beer is a distant memory and we are well into the ‘black rats’. I am drinking myself attractive and my female equivalent is doing the same. Perhaps we may even speak before last drinks are called and I utter the magic words, “Fancy a Kebab?”
Her champagne fuelled response, “I know just the place.” Yes, even for a Queenslander, I confess the old tests in Sydney were golden days.
Sydney town aside, for the Uncle, watching the Wallabies abroad has given me some of the greatest moments and experiences of my life.
Edinburgh was superb! I find Murrayfield an excellent venue and the Scottish a warm, knowledgeable rugby crowd. As for the drink post-match, the Uncle got stuck in a pint-for-pint with a local who appeared to have had just as many pints as he had scrums judging by the disfigurement of his ears and redness of his cheeks. A good man though, who could talk rugby all night, even though a translator was required at times.
I was drinking ours (XXXX) he was drinking theirs (Tennents) and I am not ashamed to say the Uncle came third in two horse race. My new drinking friend invited us down to the Borders the following weekend to watch Hawick play Kelso in a local match and a return of XXXX v Tennents. Yes I came third again but rugby was the winner on the day. Scotland should be on the bucket list of any rugger-bugger.
Dublin was a hazy, Guinness-fuelled marathon of merriment. Lansdowne Road was a good venue, close to town and anywhere in Dublin is close to a pub. Well designed city that one.
We drank at several rugby clubs including Old Belvedere, Old Wesley and Bective Rangers, then moved onto Kielys pub in Donnybrook. Thankfully there were no signs of an actual stoush, just the Uncle having a one-on-one with Arthur Guinness and his addictive stout.
Found myself in a joint called Legs drinking some awful wine but hey, when that’s all they serve and it’s 10 past who cares in the morning… who cares? If you can’t have fun in Dublin on rugby weekend you can’t have fun at all.
London, well its London. I like Twickenham and the pubs around Richmond were pretty good too. After Bernie Larkham dropped Australia into World Cup history against the South African’s in 1999 the Uncle and two mates – all draped in Wallaby Gold – were walking to the Racing Page pub in Richmond. As we turned the corner, three abreast, we saw walking intently towards us three large Afrikaners draped in ‘Bok green.
Without a word being said, each side bound like a front row and proceeded to charge each other from about five feet. After a series of head clashes we all got up, laughed and made our way to the pub. Uli, Johann and (forgot his name) shouted the first of many.
Fortune favours the brave and located on the jukebox was an assortment of Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil and yes, Craig McLaughlin and his band Check 1-2. Craig actually sound pretty good if you’ve had a few rums and you’re singing to a South African who has just been knocked out of the cup. London, not bad but not my favourite.
Cardiff. Cardiff how I love thee on match day! This is rugby mecca for me. The singing, the banter, the singing, the banter, the Brains SA, the singing followed by more Brains SA and then banter.
I truly find the Welsh wonderful hosts, happy to talk scrums all day and, although they don’t like to lose, they will give credit to a better team. I love their love of the game. I love their passion for everything rugby.
We found ourselves in pubs like The Old Arcade and the City Arms. I found myself at 2AM holding the greasiest piece of chicken known to man singing ‘It’s a world in union’ with some complete stranger, both convinced Tom Jones was in trouble at the sound of a larynx working overtime.
I later caught up with a Welsh mate at The Angel Hotel, where we drove on until dawn discussing all things from Keith Murdoch to what position Owen Glyndwr would have played (for me, open side flanker).
I am sure we all have great memories of watching our teams tour the world. I am really looking forward to my kids growing up, no more school fees so I can do it all again – with them!
Until then I will aim for being a good host. Welcome Scotland, welcome Wales. My shout!
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