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England Counties Player Blog: The First Instalment

02 June 2012

  • Phil Chesters and Harry Peck take you inside the England Counties camp
  • "We met many of the passionate locals who are particularly excited about the England Counties"
Training at Kampala Rugby Club under a darkened sky

Photo: RFU Archive

Interesting start to the tour, Michael Old, England Counties Manager, calling two days before departure: "The airline has mixed up the flights and four players and two management must fly out a day early." But not to worry, amidst all the mayhem there was a silver lining - the Thursday group gets to fly business class apparently!

Printing off our tickets, however, we noticed they read economy and quickly we became suspicious. Concerns were confirmed at check-in and our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly business quickly evapourated into 16 hours of economy.

Only @HCPecker (he’s trying to boost his Twitter followers), scrum half and smallest man on tour, somehow still managed to wangle a front row seat #legroom.

We finally arrived at the Sheraton Hotel after our long trip and it looked an ideal place to be for the next 10 days with great facilities. We did however experience our first of many power cuts while in the lobby reception. On asking some of the staff about it, their response was "this is Africa," accompanied by a nonchalant smile.

That evening, we settled down with some TV in the room. At first we thought it wouldn’t be a great watch but we persevered with ESPN's coverage of the national American junior spelling bee. We found ourselves being outdone by 12-year-olds as we tried to spell words such as ‘salmon’ which we thought was easy, only to realise that there is a form which, when used in certain contexts, has a silent ‘ph’ deriving from its Latin origin...

Into the gym

After a good night’s sleep we were feeling fresh and headed for a group gym session which blew away any cobwebs left from the long journey. By lunchtime the next party of three players had arrived, taking the total to seven and making us feel more like a squad.

Wheato and Uganda’s crested crane

Photo:RFU Archive

Feeling adventurous and wanting to get outside the hotel walls, we headed into Kampala town. Strolling up and down the high street, we tried not to draw too much attention to ourselves. However, it soon became clear that there was no such thing as a pelican crossing or a green man and getting across the road became a particularly dangerous affair. Peter Hodgkinson (Hodge) is pretty decent at side-stepping tackles on the rugby pitch but looked extremely uneasy attempting to dodge the free-for-all traffic.

After lunch, we went for our first rugby session and to scout Kampala Rugby Club, the venue for our first game on Tuesday against the Ugandan Barbarians. At the ground, we met many of the passionate locals who are very excited by the England Counties visit and the upcoming fixture. 

We ran through some drills and then finished by displaying our skills with a cross-bar challenge. It was extremely unsuccessful and will hopefully only serve to lure them into a false sense of security! A special mention has to go to Tom Wheatcroft again for his uncanny impression of Uganda’s national bird, the great crested crane of which there were many walking around the pitch. A quality Kodak moment!

Phil Chesters and Harry Peck of room 708

Photo: RFU Archive

Done with rugby for the day, we returned to the hotel for a recovery pool session and some water volleyball.

Signing off from room 708 – Phil Chesters and Harry Peck

P.S We would like to pass on our apologies to the Queen for missing her Jubilee celebrations however we hope to make her and the supporters back home proud when we play for the rose on Tuesday.