With the main school rugby season drawing to a close attention already begins to turn to the 2019 season.
The rugby played this season has been fantastic, and if the trend continues then it will rise again next year. As with this season, pre-season will play a huge part, and with that in mind we spoke to Travel Places’ Tim Douglas about school rugby and their Cornwall pre-season tour in August next year, among other topics.
XV Rugby: Tell us a bit about Travel Places?
Tim Douglas: We are a well kept secret! As a sports tour operator and travel management company, we are a large company with a diverse range of clients.
Not only do we arrange over 50 school sports tours annually, we also arrange travel for multiple professional sports teams, including national teams such as the highly successful Invictus groups we’ve just bought back from Sydney, numerous F1 teams and national governing bodies.
XV: Which schools have you worked with recently?
TD: We have arranged tours and travel this year for Sevenoaks School, Shiplake College, Radley College, Brighton College, Guildford High School and The Judd School to name a few.
XV: What sort of destinations do you find particularly popular with schools?
TD: In terms of our rugby tours, South Africa is eternally popular as a destination. Closer to home Ireland and Italy always generate interest. I think Georgia is an up and coming destination, as it offers an exciting tour in a very different environment while still being in Europe.
The Caribbean is still the most popular cricket destination and hockey tours to Holland go hand in hand.
XV: We bumped into you at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s last year, what did you think of it?
TD: It really is a wonderful spectacle. I played in it myself 20+ years ago, but the size and scope of it now is quite awesome with 7000 boys and girls competing. It is a wonderful tournament.
However, what really stood out for me last year was the quality of the rugby and the passion of players, coaches and supporters. The standard the boys are playing at, especially at U18 level is immense.
XV: What is it, do you think, that makes school rugby and school sport in general so special?
TD: School rugby, rugby in general, is about creating memories. School rugby is so intense as the players, staff and parents live and breathe it each day and each week.
School sport is a vital part of school life. It matters to the players, the coaches, the staff, and the families. Playing your local rivals brings the whole school out to watch.
My schoolmates and I still reminisce now and again about memorable school matches and moments. There is a bond with your teammates from school, which never goes away and the memories last.
XV: We have been promoting your Cornwall Pre Season Tour; tell us a bit more about that, what’s the basic outline?
TD: Thanks for helping us to promote the tournament. The dates are August 27-29 2019. There are tournaments for U16 and U18 teams, with a minimum of 5 x 20 minute matches. There are also training sessions scheduled and some beach rugby on Day 1! The price also includes 2 nights accommodation on a full board basis.
XV: How many schools are you hoping to include?
TD: We are aiming for 6 schools in each age category, to ensure there are 5 fixtures, to make the weekend worthwhile.
XV: Why Cornwall?
TD: We feel, from speaking to our schools, that there is a demand for something different during pre season. Our aim is to create an annual tournament that offers competitive matches but also an appealing destination. Cornwall in late August is a wonderful place to be. Rugby’s heart beats strongly in the South West and within Cornwall’s rugged scenery, so we felt it would be an interesting venue for schools.
Hopefully hosting the tournament in Cornwall will allow teams freshen up their pre season preparations and is an ideal way to start the season and before we get into the winter months after October half term. We also hope families and supporters will be tempted to make the most of the last week in August to come and support too. Travel Places pride ourselves on our family atmosphere and personal service, so creating a family friendly destination was also a factor in choosing Cornwall.
From my own pre season experiences, time spent together building that team morale is important, so having 2 nights together in a different environment, a bus journey and some rugby all helps create those bonds.
XV: How can schools sign up and what are the basic costs?
TD: The price is £255pp, based on a squad of 20. Signing up is easy, please just email me for details at firstname.lastname@example.org. All we require is a deposit of £100pp. Of course availability is limited, so we are aiming to get teams signed up by February half term.
With the emphasis on development of skills and an attacking mindset ever increasing, a fun pre-season tour is perhaps as important as ever now, a chance to get the ball back in the hands in a group and to try out new skills and techniques.
In the meantime we can look forward to plenty more of the exciting rugby that we have seen in this main section of the season, with the U18 Academy League season, the school 7s season, and the remaining two-term school fifteen-a-side fixtures and the final Cup games too.
The exciting schoolboy level rugby keeps on coming!