Well what a week!!! “London calling” was the theme of the second of the last leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series for 2019!
Funding, resources and time - three essential elements to success.... 28 hours of flying and travel for the Samoan team certainly puts you on the back foot when you don’t have the funding to arrive to a tournament other than the allocated four days prior to game day. Nethertheless, wheels are in motion and straight into tournament mode.
Day One: arrival at Kensington where the tournament hotel is with all 16 teams staying. Its much like camp over the summer but for only one week. The Hotel is alive with players, tournament staff and hotel crew. Other than Emirates confusing the Black Caps with the Samoan Sevens (all on the same flight from NZ) by sending our luggage to the wrong hotel, we were all on track straight into our first gym session, a simple cardio and stretch to blow out some cobwebs then to the food hall. PS. You housekeepers that enjoyed having one team in the park imagine all the teams in one room lol….
Day Two: An early start with wellness check-ins and breakfast, then off to the first training. This is where Titch is in his element, the ‘Godfather of Sevens’! He orchestrates the players around the pitch for an hour and half, then ice baths and back for lunch and recovery before a gym session. Rest, eat, rest… that is the theme for the next day as well. I struggle with rest part as I can’t sit still. I need to be doing things....
Thursday was the team day off so I spent the morning at kicking practice with a few of the lads before heading out to visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace via Hyde Park. Timing is everything, we missed the changing of the guards however, the horses came trotting past and by the time we got to the palace the crowds had gone. With the road still closed it was perfect for moving around for those in the team counting their kms 8kms later.... I decided to TUBE it back!
Friday is the Captain’s Run then rest and recovery for game day. When you travel around the world, you know it’s a small place when the Chairman of the Chiswick Rugby Club in London we trained at was our neighbour in Ohope growing up in Tawai Street. Jersey presentation this evening as well. Now that is a humbling occasion to be a part of! To see the players presented with their playing jerseys by an ex-star "Alafoti Faosiliva". The respect, pride and joy for the jersey is something very special.
Game day at Twickenham, what can I say.... what an experience! Up at the crack of dawn for wellness check-ins and breakfast, then off to the stadium. The subtle things that aren’t glorified in professional rugby is players having to share changing rooms with other teams that potentially could be your opponent. Twenty eight players from two teams plus management and physios crammed in, but it worked! With 47,000 cheering fans and 3 close loses, it wasn’t the start Samoa were after. Day Two of the tournament lets hope will bring better thing! Not sure if it was breakfast or the message given to the boys however, it worked! Winning the Challengers Trophy cup, 3 games from 3! Spirits are high and the confidence is back and now we board the Eurostar for Paris.