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England Counties Player Blog: The Second Instalment

08 June 2012

  • Chesters and Peck give their account of the first match on tour
  • "Incredibly humbling, what started as a rugby tour is becoming so much more"
Wheatcroft and Rawlings give a team talk

Photo: RFU Archive

This was originally meant to be a daily tour blog from every member of the squad, luckily for you at home we have been promoted to chief England Counties bloggers, which means you get to hear from us (Phil Chesters and Harry Peck) every few days!

Game 1 v Ugandan Barbarians

We started off the day on Tuesday with a late breakfast and an ‘optional’ stretch session which was quickly turned into a compulsory one by Chris Rainbow, Medical Support.  This wasn’t received very well by the boys. Only joking, we are a flexible bunch!  

All the us then had a few hours off to collect their thoughts and do their own personal pre-match routines. We put on an ‘optional’ meditation session at room 708 to help the boys relax. No one turned up.

There was slight unease due to the uncertainty about our opposition and on arrival at the ground we were asked to get off the bus for an individual airport like security check.  Our concerns were however eradicated once we got into the warm up and standard pre-match build up.

The result was England Counties 66-13 Ugandan Barbarians but the score line does not reflect just how tough the game was. There was an impressive atmosphere and credit has to go to the Ugandan boys for never giving up for the full 80 minutes.   

England Counties with the Ugandan Barbarians

Photo: RFU Archive

All 26 squad members have a part to play on match day.  I, Harry Peck, was really pleased to have 20 minutes off the bench and being cheered by the African crowd. Being called a mouse (referring to my size) only helped my performance.  

Phil Chesters, here. I wasn’t involved in the match-day 22 but I was able to contribute and make good use of my pace to shuttle on the kicking-tee and much-needed water for the boys. After the game, we stayed around to meet with the locals and show our appreciation to Kyadondo Rugby Club who were most hospitable.

Jinja Tag Rugby Trust Outreach

It was early start for the boys on Wednesday.  All the squad made it onto the bus for 8am apart from our old-timer Chris Briers who, showing his age, needed some extra kip. By holding us up, he made us hit rush hour traffic. Rumour has it the Ugandan roads proved too much for Tom Wheatcroft, who apparently saw his breakfast again on the other bus!

Once we arrived in Jinja, we split off into small groups and attended separate primary schools, coordinated by the Tag Rugby Trust team, to help prepare the children the afternoon tag tournament.  Along with James Cleverly, we were assigned to Walukuba West Primary School for deaf children.  It was an eye opening experience to say the least.   We were shown into a classroom during a lesson, and were struck by the pin drop silence.

Saunders extra line out practice

Photo: RFU Archive

The children were extremely well behaved, very welcoming and so happy to see us. It was incredibly humbling. What started off as a rugby tour is fast becoming so much more, an unforgettable and life changing experience. 

Before going out onto the sports field we were taught a small amount of sign language as a means of communicating with the kids. A special mention to our prop James who really embraced the situation and showed his experience of working with special needs children. He is a part-time teaching assistant at Glebe School, West Wickham back home.

On the rugby pitch, although being impaired through their hearing, the children showed great athleticism and ability to use all of their other senses to play at an astonishing standard. Not once did any of them moan or complain to us, apart from when we had to substitute them off! We finally had to make the tough managerial decision to pick just ten children, five boys and five girls for the tag rugby tournament against the other boys and their schools.

Our school was the only deaf school competing but we reached the plate semi-final and only lost by one score.  It was however, about far more than winning or losing, seeing the children, who have so little, having fun and enjoying themselves was brilliant. We were really proud of our team and just hope that we made at least a small difference to their lives.

After the presentations were finished, we jumped on the bus ready for the two and half hour journey back to the hotel in hot humid conditions.  Everyone was extremely tired from the game on Tuesday and being out in the sun all day. There was not one complaint from the boys though, as it really was such a fantastic experience and one that we will all never forget.

Signing out from room 708 – Phil Chesters and Harry Peck


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