Under 15's - Latest News
U15 Salles Tour 2012 - Tour Report
Bedford Blues have had a long standing relationship with Salles Rugby Club for more than 30 years, when finding themselves in the local area, Bedford Blues seniors requested a match with Salles. Traditionally, the Bedford Junior Blues U15 age group travel to Salles during the Easter break and play host during the return leg 12 months later.
Day 1 - Friday
It was a very early 03:00am start for the 25 boys and 7 accompanying adults on Friday 30thMarch. Meeting at Kempston Retail Park, the bus collected the party for the short trip to Luton Airport.
Check-in went smoothly and the party moved swiftly through the security checks without incident. With 90 minutes to kill, the boys each spent some time finding a gift for their hosting family and preparing for the hot weather with a variety of colour tones of spray-on tan.
As the flight was called, the party moved towards the gate and boarded the plane. The flight was full, so the group was split across a number of rows on the plane. The flight itself was uneventful but when progressing through passport control, we were chased by an airline official who had discovered on of the players passports on the plane... hopefully the only blip of the trip. This was not to be as 15 minutes later one of the adults reported that their checked-in luggage had not arrived at the baggage collection point, lucky for them – they had a range of sizes to select their wardrobe for the weekend from.
Were were met by three men from Salles club: Michel, Jean Claude and Philippe who have been involved in the Salles/Bedford partnership for many years and who help arrange this years activities in the local area. Following a short delay whilst the lost bag was reported, the trip to Salles from Bordeaux only took 40 minutes. The weather was a beautiful 22 degrees with clear blue sky and bright sunshine which was to stay with us for the whole weekend.
On arrival at the Salles Rugby stadium at 10:30, we were presented with a breakfast of pastries, hot chocolate and coffee. For the next couple of hours, the boys relaxed in the warm sun, some playing touch rugby, others finding the local swimming pool to cool down in. Lunch was a selection of BBQ cooked meats with a side of pasta. At 14:00 the group were transported to the local river that flows through Salles. Having been decked out in buoyancy jackets the group moved up river to the start of the river adventure. During the next couple of hours the group went through a range of feelings: fun, happiness, frustration, tiredness and relief as the group travelled in canoes down the river under trees, among fast moving logs to the end of the course in the centre of Salles. The first boat arrived after 2 hours, the final one after 3.5 hours; many of the boys arrived in different boats than when they set off. Back at the stadium, showers and a quick change was followed by the briefing of who was to board with which hosting family. The families collected the boys who then returned with them for dinner and a much needed sleep.
Day 2 - Saturday
Meeting at the stadium at 0900, the group boarded the bus for the start of day 2. The morning activities were 40 minutes away towards Archachon on the coast. The Tree Climbing adventure had all of the boys suspended high in the trees on a variety of difficulty courses. Using teamwork, they traversed around the courses prior to a picnic lunch among the trees.
After lunch, a short drive towards Archachon took us to the stadium where we were to play our first fixture against what turned out to be a combined team from 3 separate clubs with players aged 16-17. Playing 4 quarters of 15 minutes due to the heat, the Bedford team scored first and were leading 7-5 at the first break. At half time we were still 21-17 ahead when the heat began to take its toll and injuries started to become an issue. The home players had more players and fresher legs to call on as the match progressed, but Bedford can be proud of the way in which they played. The final score of 28-41 to the home team was a great result for the touring side against a very strong home team with players already playing in the Cadet (17-18 year olds) setup. At the reception held at one of the teams clubhouses, both teams sang songs with gusto and an independent judge would probably favour the visiting team in that competition.
Back at Salles, the seniors match was half way through when we returned. This match was important to the local team as a loss could have meant league demotion. There was a brass band supporting the team and it was a great local occasion as everyone from the area seemed to be at the match. A great community event and a great result for Salles as they managed to hold on to a lead created in the first half. The evening’s entertainment continued at the ground for several hours until hosting families returned with their boys for a good nights sleep.
Day 3 - Sunday
A prompt 0900 start started Day 3 of the tour. The coach ride to Archachon provided an hours ramble around the coastal town. Next stop was the Dune de Pyla which is the largest sand dune in western europe. It is a tradition for touring Bedford Blues teams to climb this sand dune on the morning before the big match. Some would say it is a way of tiring the touring party out before the match – they would be right.
Returning to Salles for 14:00, there was just enough time to prepare for the Test Match. In France, the junior teams play based on calendar years and with two age groups together as one ie. 1996 and 1997 born players in their team versus our boys from Sept 1996-August 1997. In addition, there is no contesting or pushing at the scrum. This provides a different game strategy as the front row is not as dominant.
It was agreed to play the 60 minutes as four quarters again. The official Test Match would be for the first 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes to allow all players to get match time, with the final 15 minutes a mixed barbarians teams. The match proved to be very level in terms of abiltiy. The Salles team had played a league match on the previous day and were looking for a strong result. After 15 minutes the score was 3-7 to the home team. Bedford were getting the ball wide, and troubling the Salles back division. Salles scored a second converted try in the second period, but this was returned by a superb score by Freddie Davison playing in his newfound centre position and converted by Darren Breeze as the whistle went for the end of the second period. History will show a win for the home team in the test match, but by only 4 points at 10-14 - a great touring result when a difference of 80 points had been predicted before the match started. The third period started with a try from the home team. Rees Bettell scored a unconvertd try shortly afterwards. The next ten minutes were memorable for two new lineout moves Penguin and Shotgun, both of which Salles were unprepared for. Bedford were close to finishing the encounter as winners but just failed to make the critical moves at the right time. The final 15 minutes had players swapping shirts to create two equal teams and playing with some style considering they had no single language of understanding or playing style. At the end of the match the team wearing blue shirts were the overall winners 44-26 – a win that will be remembered by all those involved for some time to come.
After the match, we had some time to prepare for the presentations and celebrations. All of the boys looked smart in their Blues number 1’s at the presentation event. The local Mayor was guest of honour as he started the ceremony. Kevin Breeze responded thanking the host families and organising team and invited Salles to the return trip to Bedford in Easter 2013. Gifts were exchanged providing a reminder of the great weekend for all of the touring team. A great celebration dinner was then held in the clubhouse as all the played mixed together with hosting families and team officials. At the close of the evening, the boys returned to their hosting families for the final time to pack bags in preparation for the return journey.
Day 4 - Monday
A 0630 meet gave the group a very early start. Travelling to Bordeaux airport took 40 minutes and checkin was fairly straight forward. However, the french air traffic controllers decided to strike on the day, resulting in a delay of 90 minutes in the departure time.
Landing at Luton airport at 12:00 local time, the bus returned everyone back to Bedford by 13:30.
Looking back at the weekend, we were not aware of the importance of this exchange tour to the Salles community. Often the trip to Bedford by the local players is the first time they get to leave the local region. Several of the current Salles senior team made the trip to Bedford as younger players. This tradition needs to be continued as it shows the importance of rugby on the lives of all those involved, both past and present.
A selection of photos from the weekend can be seen in the Salles Tour 2012 photo gallery.