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The world’s best rugby locations – as chosen by professionals
As a global sport, rugby reaches some of the farthest corners of the world, so England rugby union players Will Stuart, Tom Curry and Ollie Lawrence have seen a place or two in their time on the field. But which destinations had a lasting impact? High Life sits down with them to find out…
When it comes to where in the world professional rugby players like to hit the turf, the answer, at least according to Bath prop Will Stuart, is surprisingly local. “Galway,” the 24-year old confidently states. “It’s a great city. Even though I never actually played there (I was a travelling reserve), I had a great time. It was actually a bit better for the reserves as we didn’t have to prepare for the game as much.” When travelling with the team, the off-field moments are as important as the on-field ones in terms of morale. “It was always nice having something to do together after training,” Stuart explains. “I was surprised at how big and densely populated some of the pubs were! It was endless – you go through one door, then another and they just keep on going into another pub. It’s like a labyrinth, but it was good fun.”
Sale Sharks flanker Tom Curry has ideas further afield. “One of my favourite locations was definitely Tokyo. I think the on-field speaks for itself as a World Cup venue, but a lot of the off-field stuff was just incredible. The people are so friendly and polite – it’s really like nowhere else and nothing I’d experienced before.” Like Stuart, Curry sees the extra-curricular activities as key to experiencing a location, and appreciates how the team morale on-field translates off it. “I think when you’re playing decent rugby it feeds into the off-field stuff,” he says. “In Japan, we had a great time because it started with how well we did with training, how much effort we put in and therefore how we got closer as a group. It made a massive difference to how much we could enjoy ourselves off the field.” Enjoying downtime isn’t always a question of heading to the pub. “It doesn’t mean going out and getting smashed, just how we relax and properly take time off,” says Curry. “We’d do whatever we fancied, but a lot of it is about coffees. It’s kind of the rugby way. Obviously, no one is going up Mount Fuji!”
As England rugby union players, Stuart, Curry and Lawrence get to experience the sport in all its cultural forms. For Tom, Buenos Aires holds a special place in his heart, not only because it was where he played his debut game, but for its unique atmosphere on the field. “To see people coming from quite rural areas and knowing they’ve come to watch us – and how much it means to them – was a brilliant experience,” he explains. “They were going properly crazy for it and that’s not something you generally get in England, so it was a totally different cultural experience.”
Worcester Warriors centre Ollie Lawrence recalls traversing the home of rugby superstars, New Zealand, on a sixth form school tour. “It was cool to experience a completely different side of the world. We went to so many places: Auckland, Queenstown Christchurch, Rotorua, Dunedin and Wellington, and we’d stay in local people’s houses,” he says. “Life there was so different. They’d have seven or eight people living in a small house. It was quite an eye-opener.” The interactions with the locals made a lasting impression on Lawrence. “They were just so grounded, and family orientated,” he enthuses. “All of them looked after us really well.” Was he ever surprised by a location he played in? “Yeah, probably against Enisei in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, for a Challenge Cup match with Worcester,” he says. “We had 17 hours of travel until we got to the game but it was a cool trip to go somewhere pretty rogue, somewhere you wouldn’t expect to play much rugby.”
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