Article posted on: August 05, 2016
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“The opportunity to visit a country with a totally different cultural environment and to experience a blend of rugby against very talented, athletic boys enabled the players to learn a great deal in preparation for the forthcoming season.”
Manchester Grammar School, Sri Lanka 2016
Manchester Grammar School’s rugby players have just returned home from a school rugby tour to Sri Lanka. Rugby has been played in Sri Lanka since 1879, brought to the country by the British during the colonial period. It’s now the second largest rugby-playing nation in Asia. And the first rugby union in Asia was founded here in 1908. So when Manchester Grammar School were looking for an exciting destination for their biannual long-haul rugby tour, Sri Lanka seemed like the perfect option!
The adventure begins!
On 4th July 2016, forty-one excited students and six members of staff from Manchester Grammar School boarded a plane from Manchester to Sri Lanka, on their biannual long-haul school rugby tour.
Their first stop? The lovely Mount Lavinia Hotel, just south of central Colombo. Their home for three nights, the hotel boasts a spectacular waterside location. It was also within walking distance of both the group’s training base and St. Thomas College, where they’d play their first fixtures.
This first part of the tour was all about preparation for their fixtures. Despite their long journey the day before, the first full day of the tour was dedicated to training and team building, all of which took place in Colombo’s beautiful Viharamahadevi (formerly Victoria) Park.
The training sessions were tough on the players, but slowly they began to acclimatise to the hot and humid conditions, which was exactly what they needed to do if they wanted to win their upcoming fixtures….
During their rugby tour of Sri Lanka, the teams from Manchester Grammar School would take on teams from two local schools. But these weren’t just any schools. St. Thomas’ College in Mount Lavinia and Trinity College in Kandy hold a special place in the history of Sri Lankan rugby. In the late ‘70’s it was these two schools that were the first in Sri Lanka to take part in an overseas school rugby tournament. So the group from Manchester knew they were in for some tough opposition.
In the first fixtures against St. Thomas’ College, both the first and second team came away with good wins - 57-0 and 36-17, respectively. As well as great team performances, there were some excellent individual showings too. Plus, the group were invited to spend the night with their opposition in the St. Thomas’ College dorms – giving them a great opportunity to socialise with their new friends.
A few days later, in Kandy, the group took on teams from Kandy College at their picturesque stadium in Pallekele. If anything, this opposition was even tougher than the last, perhaps because they hadn’t entered the schools’ knockout cup, leaving them with their full complement of players.
Manchester’s second team played very well, but playing against a more athletic opposition meant they didn’t quite get the run on the game, losing 26-0. The first team also faced strong opposition, but managed to come away with a convincing 40-17 victory.
Afterwards, the group were invited to dine with their opposition, before staying the night with host families, to get a real taste of Sri Lankan culture.
Later in the tour, the group also played two fixtures against Sri Lankan representative teams (featuring players from a number of local schools). Again, they faced incredibly tough opposition in these matches, which the teams from Manchester did, unfortunately, lose (although it has to be said that some questionable refereeing decisions in the final games didn’t help).
However, having the chance to play under floodlights at the country’s international stadium (known as the Racecourse Stadium), was a fantastic experience for them
It wasn’t just about the rugby…!
Of course, with any school rugby tour, the sporting experiences are key, and the group from Manchester certainly had plenty of these. However, when you travel so far, to a country with a completely different culture and environment, it’s important that this too is reflected in the tour.
Manchester Grammar School have travelled with us a lot over the years and it’s always important to them that they give something back to the community on such tours.
That’s why they decided to visit a local school in a disadvantaged area. As well as teaching English, the group also helped the school to clear the playground so that the children would have a safe area to play in.
They also took some rugby kit over to Sri Lanka with them, to donate to local schools who want to grow rugby participation among their students, but simply don’t have the resources.
The group also took some time to relax and enjoy exploring Sri Lanka together. They visited an elephant orphanage, went white water rafting and canyoning, enjoyed a jungle trek and jeep safari, and even visited the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress!
After their final fixtures, the group headed to the beautiful coastal resort of Bentota, for some well-deserved R&R! As well as its spectacular beaches, Bentota is famous for its water sports so, while they were there, this active group certainly made sure they got stuck in!
Are you looking for a school sports tour that offers great educational value? Do you want your students to return home inspired by the way their sport can open the door to unforgettable life experiences? Contact us today, and we’ll talk you through the options.
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