This particular age group have been lucky enough to have toured and played rugby in England, Wales, Ireland, France and Scotland. This Easter they will be completing the Six Nations and its believed this is the first Chippenham RFC age group to have EVER done this!!!
The Six Nations Tours started as U12's when they played Crewe and Nantwich (England), Bangor (Wales) and travelled over the North Sea to play a cracking Dublin side called Seapoint (Ireland). As U14's, they travelled to the twin town of Chippenham, La Fleche in France and played a couple of great matches against La Fleche - France done!! When they were U15's they were lucky enough to travel to Murrayfield to watch the European Cup Final between Saracens and Clermont and then played a great match against Perth U15's - Scotland done and just Italy left to do...
So.. now as U16's, this Thursday they will be heading up to Heathrow to fly to Milan to start the Italy leg and complete the Six Nations!! We shall be based in Parma and are taking a tour party of 43 that includes competing in an U16's International Festival on Friday and Saturday, meeting up and training with Italian Internationals, a visit to the home of Ferrari at Maranello, a CRFC U16's go cart Grand Prix and loads of other events. We shall try to keep this blog updated on a daily basis to let everyone know whats going on and shall include some juicy stuff from tour as well... but not everything!!
Italy - Here we come!!
Wednesday Night - Bags packed, Pepperami, song books, Tour Shirt and Italian phrase book ready for the big day tomorrow. All meeting at the Clubhouse at 5.00am for a quick bacon butty and swift half before leaving on the coach to Heathrow. The excitment is building... The flight leaves at 9.20am so we should there in plenty of time to check in the mountains of baggage onto British Airways. Really hoping for an upgrade...
It was up with the sparrows to get to the Clubhouse and enjoy a little livener before the coach trip down the M4 and hopefully avoid the rush hour traffic.
The coach trip went smoothly and arrived at Heathrow in plenty of time to check in 43 dirty great kit bags and make sure we could grab some breakfast. We also managed to not lose anyone at the first hurdle and all the lads learnt their number to ensure roll-call was conducted smoothly.
After a cracking trip by British Airways that was very uneventful, probably due to the stupid time that everyone set off on Thursday morning, it was great to arrive in Milan on time. This was the first time that all the squad have actually boarded a flight to go on tour and they were perfect passengers. To be honest, just a little sing-song but most ended up catching up on some sleep!
Once arriving in Milan, our excellent host, Ritchie met us and we all embarked upon the coach to Parma, our base for the next four nights. When we arrived, it was just a case of sorting out rooms in the hotel and very pleased to find out I was sharing with my old mucker, Jerry so I knew what I was facing over the next few evenings .... A few others weren't too sure what lay ahead..
When the lads were settled in and had found out where the local corner shop was for essentials, everyone headed into the beautiful city of Parma and managed to find the most expensive bar to sit outside in beautiful weather and enjoy a few beers or coffee's as did Deano. We then all headed back on the coach to visit the home of Zebre Rugby, which is based in Parma and the lads had an excellent coaching session by none other than George Biagi, who is the captain of Zebre and played 2nd row for Italy in this years 6 Nations. It also helped that he grew up in Scotland so communication was not a problem. The lads really worked their socks off and benefited from the training sets they got put through. Afterwards, it was back to the Zebre Clubhouse for an excellent dinner and a few relaxing beverages, it was off to bed to ensure we all awoke, bright eyed and bushy tailed...
Now I have to say that the WiFi in Italy is frankly rubbish..! Couldn't find a decent signal anywhere and hence why the updates from the blog are all rather late. But, what can you do...
Bloody hard work getting up at 7.30 for breakfast and make sure we were all on the coach to Colorno for the days rugby. Give us all a good old full English but we had to settle for some ham, cheese and stale baguette. Anyway, everyone got their act together finally and we headed off to Colrono for the today's tournament.
It turned out to be a really tough festival with 5 teams taking part, including ourselves and the premier private rugby school in Canada, Shawnigan, which really made for an international feel to the whole day. The first couple of matches against Italian teams were cracking matches which the lads won well but more on this later. The third match was against the Canadian team and the Chippenham lads really turned it on and won 19-0 in a great match although the opposition no10 wasn't too chuffed with the result. The final match was against the hosts, Colorno and turned into a bit of a classic. Thanks to some superb efforts, the Chippenham lads won 7-0 although it was a mighty effort and they rightly deserved picking the Champions Trophy!!
After this impressive effort, everyone retired to the excellent Colorno clubhouse and managed to watch the Bath v Exeter match, which frankly was a bit of an anticlimax... the Chippenham U16's could have put together a better performance if only they weren't totally wacked from the 4 matches!
After all the matches and rugby, it was off to a lively restaurant for some dinner and a few speeches from the esteemed coaches. Pasta went down well and all really enjoyed it.. Back to the hotel and an early night before the next international rugby tournament. Off to bed and more to come tomorrow.
A bit jaded!!! Everyone is up early to grab breakfast and be on the coach for 8.30... Thankfully all the lads are in good shape and not too tired after yesterdays matches. We headed back to Colorno and set up camp at the rugby club. Todays Tournament is a big affair with 12 teams taking part including the Canadian team and a team from Aberdare in South Wales! It only turned out that John 'Yoda' Corcoran used to play rugby with a couple of the Aberdare coaches and we had a right good get together. All the Welsh contingent in the Chippenham party felt right at home, Welsh flags, daffodils and inflatable sheep... The format today is 4 pools of 3 teams, so the lads play 2 games and then dependant of position in the pool, the winners go into semi final and hopefully final. In the Chippenham pool, we had 2 Italian teams, Carpi and Tarvisium. The match reports will appear on the website, when we get home. . but just to say that we ended up topping the pool, went and won the semi against Shawnigan and then ended up in the final, which was against the hosts, Colorno once again. The lads put in a great performance and really produced the goods to win yet again!!! Cups presented and excellent hosts were very grateful and magnanimous. What a great Italian club and we were honoured to take part in this great tournament. Thank You Colorno.
To put some context on the previous winners of the Colorno 'Filippo Cantoni' Tournament, below are the previous winners;
ALBO D’ORO COLORNO TOURNAMENT “FILIPPO CANTONI”
2011: Frascati Rugby
2012: Province dell’Ovest
2013: Province dell’Ovest
2014: Centro Di Formazione FIR di Rovigo
2015: Rugby Gogledd Cymru (Wales)
2016: Rugby Gogledd Cymru (Wales)
2017: Camps Bay High School (Capetown, South Africa)
2018: Chippenham Rugby Club (England)
What an achievement from the Chippenham lads - Well proud.
After a little stop off at the best little restaurant for some brilliant and huge pizza, some which included the novel Pizza with chips on top, it was back to the hotel for a wash up and get ready to head back to Zebre clubhouse for the famous Chippenham RFC Court sessions, with Judges Jimmer and Deano presiding over the various charges. Some will stay on tour but a few are listed below;
Jerry and Matthew. Running a very poor bar - proved guilty..
Jake Bailey. Making a stink at Heathrow airport toilets and bringing disrepute on the club and loosing tour shirt.... guilty. Additional charge of getting a trial with Wales Exiles.... sad...
Will and Mike Brown - for obtaining additional tour shirts and therefore breaking the cardinal tour rule. We only wear one tour shirt for the whole of the tour. The defence of avoiding smelling was not accepted!! guilty.
Eliott Ayliffe - For injuring a Referee after headbutting his knee. Somehow or other - proved guilty!!! but his Father was called to take the punishment and he faced the additional charge of wearing an awful union jack jacket which has brought shame on the club for too many years.... Guilty
Will, Eddie, Jake and Luke - Just for being smelly.... Guilty hugely!!!
Richie - Where was he today?? as tour organiser, he missed today after being incapable... Guilty clearly...
Griff - Just being Welsh - Guilty!!
After the court was adjourned, all the party sat and watched the Anthony Joshua fight which turned out to be a bit of a waste of time but happy that AJ won. Back to the hotel and a few quiet beers..
Very jaded today and heading off to Maranello, the home of Ferrari. Very excited!!
All the rugby is now done and today is all about speed!! The visit to the Ferrari factory and museum was something all the lads will remember for a long time. The place is amazing and huge thanks to our hosts for sorting. The cars on show were superb and all the lads loved it. Rich T even got himself a drive in a Ferrari California and a bloody open top at that! Mind you it cost him a small packet but he did get a discount. The rest of us enjoyed the great weather and topped up our tans. Then it was back on the coach to Modena, the home of Balsamic Vinegar to try and find a bar that would accommodate us all and find out what Jerry does with his probe and how much he charges. A very odd couple of stories involving dead bodies but probably best that stays on tour... In the end, the lads decided to crash into the local McDonalds whilst the rest us played an odd game of grab the spare chair so we could sit down and empty your glass, so they could refill due to not having enough glasses! The other thing that the Italians were not very good at, along with having rubbish WiFi, is putting up straight church towers. Along with one in Parma, the Modena tower was on a serious wonk....
After lunch, it was back to Parma for the CRFC Go Kart Grand Prix. All the lads and dads took part and some serious speed was achieved. A couple of the dads slightly struggled with the G Forces involved and ended up a mess outside with travel sickness... The rest of the party went through qualifying with Ben S getting the fastest lap and pole position. All the fastest 8 drivers then took part in the CRFC Go Kart Grand Prix which ended up more like a game of Dodgems and Tom P ended up winning a very closely fought race.
Back to the hotel and looking forward to the last nights dinner which was in a lovely restaurant in the old part of Parma. But more on that later....
Got to give full credit to the lads who had worked their socks off over the tour and its amazing they didn't all collapse in a heap during the evening and descend into chaos but they were superb, as they had been throughout the tour. The final nights dinner was excellent with loads of Parma ham, little bread pillows that were just the right size for little Griff to use and rest his little tiny head. This was followed by Spaghetti Carbonara and Tirimisu for those that could keep their eyes open.. After dinner, everyone (well most) went back to the hotel for a night cap although a few dads decided to stay out a little, tiny bit longer... Colin was not happy.. Cold shoulder for breakfast for some.
Everyone was up bright and shiny and headed off to buy pressies for those at home, only to find that everywhere was closed due to it being Easter Monday. Oh dear...
Bags packed, loaded up on the coach, head count conducted and we hadn't lost anyone. Off to Milan airport for the quiet trip home.
Got everyone onto the flight back and all uneventful. Did a head count when we landed at Heathrow to make sure we hadn't left anyone on the plane and then it was off to find the coach to take us back home to Chippenham. Couldn't believe it when the coach finally turned up but only had the same driver that got us completely lost when we toured Scotland - Oh. how we laughed!!
Back at the Club and great to see so many people there to welcome us back home and even the BT Sport cameras were there to interview the U16's coaches - World famous we are!!!
A little summary will follow when we've collected all our thoughts and got yourselves
sorted but what a tour and what great memories these lads will have...
So.. what started as a little dream has now reached reality. The fantastic Coaching team of this age group suggested an idea of touring all Six Nation countries during the Junior years and wondered if it was possible. It had never been done by a Chippenham age group before and we'd not heard of others within the rugby community that had achieved this.
But thanks to a brilliantly supportive group of parents who dipped deep into their pockets and came up with imaginative and wacky fund-raising ideas, great support from our valued sponsors, wonderful assistance from local funding bodies, councils and twinning committees and great support from the fantastic members at Chippenham RFC, these lads have played the great game of rugby in six different countries and completed the Six Nations!! They will have these memories for the rest of their lives and we all hope that they may go on to achieve fantastic achievements in their own lives.
Well done boys - You did it!!
Updated 23:45 - 5 Apr 2018 by Rod Turvey