Scotland Tour Diary: Pt 1

After blogging about the experiences of the Scotland squad during the Rugby World Cup, I have been asked to do the same during our tour of Australia, Fiji and Samoa this summer and will try to give you a brief understanding of day to day life in the Scotland camp over the coming weeks so here goes.

We were asked to assemble at Murrayfield on the 24th of May in preparation for our tour of the South Seas. For many of the guys (unless involved in play-offs), the regular season had finished a couple of weeks before, so many had the chance to get a bit of relaxation in after an arduous season which had started for many of us with the World Cup in New Zealand. After a light training session in the morning we headed to the airport ready for our three leg journey to Sydney. A short flight to London was followed by a 12 hour flight to Singapore, where after a three hour stop off, we embarked on our last flight to Sydney and arrived around 5 in the morning Australia time, tired and in need of a good shower.

After a short wait for Jon ‘Welshy’ Welsh getting through quarantine at the Airport after ticking the wrong box on the immigration sheet we were greeted on the bus by our new attack coach Scott Johnson.

As a Sydney native, and with time to burn before our hotel rooms were ready, ‘Johnno’ took us on a walk round the Sydney coast past Coogee and Bondi Beaches followed by breakfast overlooking the sea. Although weary after the journey, this was a great introduction to Aussie life and it was amazing to see so many people running, cycling and swimming round the scenic Sydney bays at 7 in the morning. We then headed off to our hotel in Manly in North Sydney and were given the rest of the afternoon to explore the town centre and beautiful beach right on our doorstep.

By this stage the lads were knackered and after being asked to stay up as late as possible to help our jet lag, John Barclay, Ryan Grant and I, headed on what could only be described as a coffee crawl down the main street to keep us up and 10 coffees later, 10pm had arrived and we set off to get some sleep.

The next day we had a free morning where guys relaxed on the beach with a bit of beach volleyball before heading to Manly Surf club in the afternoon where we were given a chance to paddle the rescue boards out on the waves and finished with some races. Lets just say some guys took to it more easily that others with surfer Ross Rennie showing the lads how it’s done.

From then, the hard work began and we were back into training mode for the next few days. This was a good chance to get the prep work done for our match up with Australia on Tuesday and the guys worked hard during the day but we did manage to get a bit of entertainment on bus trips to and from training.

Our manager, Gav Scott, had managed to obtain a historic and significant boot from the SRU museum. ‘The Boot’ was to be carried round at all times by our youngest member of the squad, Stuart Hogg, and if at any time he was asked about its history, he has to tell the group and any members of the public present, what he thinks its history is. He also has the power to ask another member of the team to tell the story, where his first victim Matt Scott excelled himself. Stuart’s first attempt at the Manly Surf Club was poor to say the least but I’m sure he’ll have plenty of chances to redeem himself. Manager Gav also managed to get hold of a cup from the museum to be awarded to the trainer of the week. The cup gives the holder the power of asking any member of the team to fill his glass for free and this week’s winner was Nick De Luca. Unfortunately for Nick the old days of rugby touring are gone but I’m sure he’ll appreciate not paying for a coffee all week.

This week has also been a chance for resident bus MC, Welshy, to entertain the squad with his own brand of Kevin Bridges style comedy. Every day he’d review training and ask for songs from new members of the squad. He also got the Scottish Dutchman, Tim Visser, to sing the national anthem on every trip which was a real test for the big man.

With many new tourists, the squad has come together really well and after heading two hours north to Newcastle on Saturday, the team are settled and really looking forward to taking on the second best team in the world on Tuesday night. Huge congratulations to Ryan Grant and Matt Scott on their first starts for Scotland, wish us luck as we look forward to this huge challenge!

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Richie Vernon is a current Scotland International playing in positions across the back row. He currently plays his club rugby for Sale Sharks.