Important, Impressive, Inspiring and Incredible Irish locations

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle off Dame Street, was until 1922 the seat of the United Kingdom government’s administration in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex.  A guided tour is highly recommended in order to get a comprehensive  tour and a wonderful, memorable and invaluable experience, from guides on a Irish Rugby Tours tour.

The Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park

The Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed public park of any capital city in Europe.
It was originally formed as a Royal hunting park in the 1660s and opened to the public in 1747. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day. The Park is also home to the Zoological Gardens, Áras an Uachtaráin,(the President of Ireland’s residence) Farmleigh House and the official Residence of the United States Ambassador to Ireland, plus the Visitors Centre and  Victorian flower gardens. The Phoenix Park is only a mile and a half from O’Connell Street. Both passive and active recreational pursuits may be viewed or pursued such as walking, running, polo, cricket, hurling, and many more all on a Irish Rugby Tours tour.


Farmleigh House

Farmleigh House

Farmleigh House is a stunningly beautiful historic house, which is the Irish State’s official guest house for visiting dignitaries and royalty.  It has a fully restored interior showcasing it’s  many  important collections, an art gallery, a spectacular library, and a complete working farm. It’s open 7 days a week all year round. It was formerly one of the Dublin residences of the Guinness family…. shame it’s not Irish Rugby Tours HQ.


Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin. It closed its doors in 1924.
Today the building symbolises the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23. Leaders of the many rebellions , including those of 1798,1916 were detained and in some cases executed here. Many members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-21) were also detained in Kilmainham Gaol, guarded by British troops , and you can get the full experience this on a Irish Rugby Tours tour. 


National Stud

Irish National Stud

The Irish National Stud belongs to the people of Ireland but prides itself on being enjoyed and appreciated by visitors from all parts of the globe and those on a Irish Rugby Tours tour . Nowhere better symbolises all that is great about County Kildare, the beating heart of Ireland’s thoroughbred industry, than the stud, a unique attraction of outstanding natural beauty that is home to some of the most magnificent horses.


Japanese Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Created between 1906 and 1910 the Japanese Gardens were devised by Colonel William Hall Walker, a wealthy Scotsman from a famous brewing family, the gardens were laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru.  This can be visited while at the National Stud – one of our Irish Rugby Tours Tour.


Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several route ways, this splendid castle is full of tapestries , with no expense spared by its former owners, with the gold leaf that can be seen everywhere.It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade but this won’t keep out a Irish Rugby Tours Tour.


Jameson Distillery

Jameson Distillery

Step through the doors and step back in time : Take a distillery tour to the home of Irelands’s most famous whiskey makers, the Jameson Distillery. It’s a journey through history when you see the old kilns, mills and malting houses , the water wheel and the old warehouses. Visitors can take part in tasting panels, and be rewarded with a much coveted ‘ Irish Whiskey Taster Certificate’, all while enjoying the delights of this amazing experience with Irish Rugby Tours.


Rock Of Cashel

Rock Of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel, also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock, is a historic site located at Cashel, County Tipperary.  The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion of 1169. In 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe and also on a Irish Rugby Tours tour.




Irish Rugby Tours will take you to Glendalough an ancient monastic settlement, a remarkable place that will still your mind, inspire your heart and fill your soul.  For thousands of years people have been drawn to ‘the valley of the two lakes‘ for its spectacular scenery, rich history, archaeology and abundant wildlife.











Ray’s Top 10 Free Things To Do in London

Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum London - Rugby Tours in London

The Imperial War Museum in London, a popular destination for our London Rugby Tours.  With many collections which include archives of personal and official documents, photographs, film and video material.  Other collections include examples of military vehicles and aircraft, equipment, and other artefacts. If you are interested in any type of history this is the place for you all on an Irish Rugby Tours tour.


Horniman Museum and Gardens

Horniman Museum and Gardens - Rugby Tours in London

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is a museum with extensive collections of anthropology, natural history and musical instruments. There might be a charge for major temporary exhibitions
and the aquarium when they are put on all this on an Irish Rugby Tours tour.


Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Entertainers - Rugby Tours in London

Visit Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden for street entertainers showing off their talents to the crowds watching them. If you’re lucky you might get asked to participate in one of their performances all on an Irish Rugby Tours tour.


Classical Music Concert

Classical Music Concert - Rugby Tours in London

Musicians from the Royal College of Music perform free concerts throughout the week in various locations around London. If you have time you may want to head to one of these venues – St Mary Abbots (Kensington High Street), St Martin-in-the-fields (Trafalgar Square), Charlton House (Charlton Road), Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, Regent Hall (Oxford Street) or St James’s Piccadilly.  For classical music buffs, or those that haven’t quite learnt how to appreciate it yet, these concerts are a great opportunity to hear some excellent musicians at play. Irish Rugby Tours.


Speakers’ Corner

Speakers Corner - Rugby Tours in London

If you have an opinion and you want it to be heard then grab your soapbox and go to Speakers’ Corner. Traditionally, a Speakers’ Corner was a place where public speaking and debates could be heard. You will still find one in existence on the northeast corner of Hyde Park. If you would like to say your piece, you will be in good company – Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell have all stood there before you. You will either agree with them or disagree with them but that’s the beauty of free speech the speakers are real characters from all walks of life who just want to be heard. Irish Rugby Tours.

Where: The northeast corner of Hyde Park, near Marble Arch and Oxford Street.
When: Sunday mornings are the best time to visit.


Sniff out the noses of Soho

Sniff out the noses of Soho - Rugby Tours in London

In 1997 artist Rick Buckley came up with an unusual way of protesting against CCTV cameras on the streets of London. Armed with plaster of Paris models of his own nose and some very strong glue, Rick went about sticking his noses on around 35 London landmarks. Most of them were taken down pretty quickly but there is still 7 in existence today. Apparently, if you find all of the Seven Noses of Soho then great fortune will come your way. Here’s a hint – at least one of them is not actually in Soho. While you are in Soho you can check out what makes Soho so famous some great pubs too to pop in to. Irish Rugby Tours.


Wellcome Museum

Wellcome Museum - Rugby Tours in London

The Wellcome Collection is ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’. Exploring the connection between medicine, art and life in the past, present and future, this is a must – visit for those of you interested in odd facts and trivia. There are always really interesting exhibitions on – the current one is a study of mind, body and meditation in Tantric Buddhism – and the library is a great resource if you want to understand more about medicine and its role in society, past and present. Irish Rugby Tours.


Stand Up Comedy Club

Stand Up Comedy Club - Rugby Tours in London

Everyone enjoys a good laugh and sometimes at someone else’s expense so why not pop down to the Stand Up Comedy Club you will find today’s up and coming comedians starting out on their new careers. You might be lucky to catch one of the top comedians popping in to do some new material before he/she goes on TV or on tour. There’s a reasonably cheap bar there too to make sure you get right into the mood and a warning to those who might feel brave to heckle any of the comedians, don’t, it’s not worth it. Even though the event is free do book your tickets ahead. Irish Rugby Tours.


Hootenanny Brixton

Hootenanny Brixton - Rugby Tours in London

Growing up in London as a teenager music was always around me. Doing the London pub scene in the late 70s was an education in what artists, bands and audiences were into. At the Hootenanny Brixton you can experience what I was into at the time and still am but at a more sedate pace these days. Dance along to Ska, Roots, Reggae, Folk and other genres.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum - London Rugby Tours

London’s Natural History Museum houses a superb collection with hundreds of excellently curated and interactive exhibitions… and it’s totally free to visit.  If you’re a fan of dinosaurs, or if you’re the parent of one (a fan, not a dinosaur), then you genuinely couldn’t pick a better place to go.  The Dinosaur Gallery is brilliant, with a roaring T Rex, a Triceratops skull, and loads of information about ow the dinosaurs lived, and died, here on earth. Don’t miss the blue whale model in the mammal room either! Irish Rugby Tours.


Visit our Destination London page for our additional London Rugby Tours highlights

Ray’s 10 things to do in London for £10 and under

Sweeney Todd & Other Demons Walking Tour

Sweeney Todd Tour

The tail of Sweeney Todd has enthralled people ever since he has slashed his way onto the pages of London folklore in the 19th century. The tour is not only about Sweeney Todd, it’s also about all the other murderous characters from that period. Well worth going on and it finishes in a hunted pub no better place to end a tour all this and more on an Irish Rugby Tours tour.


Pineapple Dance Studios
Pineapple Dance Studio

Some us can dance and some of us have two left feet. So why not learn how to impress your team mates or partner by learning how to dance on an Irish Rugby Tours tour.  At the dance studio you can learn any type of dance you want to under professional tuition you might even get TV personality Louie Spence and you’ll be doing “strictly” very soon.


Rock & Sole Plaice Fish Shop

Rock and Sole Plaice fish shop

Choose from the likes of battered cod, haddock and plaice with freshly cooked golden chips and plenty of I love fish and chips and just moments from Covent Garden lies Rock & Sole Plaice fish & chip shop.  Since 1871 it has been frying up a storm using fresh ingredients and traditional techniques keeping all the locals and visitors happy in the area not bad on a Irish Rugby Tours tour.


The Clink Prison Museum

The Clink Prison Museum

The Clink Prison was a real prison and built in 1144 was one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons. Situated Southwark which was associated with its raucous and unruly behaviour it was deemed the perfect location to build it. Over the 600 years it witnessed a remarkable amount of social and political change in England and housed many characters and sinners throughout its existence including debtors, heretics, drunkards, harlots and later religious adversaries. I’ve never been to prison but this is one I would to go to on my Irish Rugby Tours tour.


Camden Lock Market

Camden Market

Camden Lock Market is a haven.  It’s not just about the food and shops there though, it’s a proper little slice of London life.  The people, the atmosphere, the buskers – all of it makes Camden Market a thoroughly lovely place to wander around.  If you’re the sort of person who likes to get chatting to new people you’ll be in your element.  If you’re into your music you have to visit the Dr. Martens Boot Room where it gives the opportunity to new bands and solo artists to show off their talents.  You can even pop into the London Sound Academy and learn how to become a DJ, it’s a great place to visit and spend the day all this and more on a Irish Rugby Tours tour.


BBC London Proms

The London Proms

Hear a wide range of classical music in a season of informal concerts with the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and in venues across London.  Each year, the BBC Proms host two months of concerts over the summer, aiming to bring the finest classical music to as many people as possible at affordable prices and in an informal atmosphere.  From classical favourites to contemporary world premieres and family concerts, the BBC Proms offer a stage for leading musicians, singers, orchestras and soloists from across the world with a broad programme of music. The eight weeks of concerts culminate in the famous Last Night performances including BBC London Proms in the Park, full of chanting and quirky traditions what a blast on a Irish Rugby Tours tour.


London Lidos

London Lidos

St. Ann’s swimming pool in Westminster was my local but alas is no more but it’s great to see new pools and Lidos spring up across London from the purpose-built swimming pools of London Fields and Brockwell Park to the natural ponds at Hampstead Heath. It’s a great way to spend a summers day with the English sun on your back with Irish Rugby Tours.


Chin Chin Ice Cream Labs

Chin Chin Labs

Everyone loves ice cream especially me and we all know that the Italians make the best ice cream in the world but with science, ice cream is now taking a new step forward. Down at the Chin Chin Labs they now can perfectly concoct ice creams frozen with liquid nitrogen. Allow your mouth to water as you peruse a menu that changes weekly it really is mouth watering. They have 3 stores around London where you can pop in for a cone or tub, the Chin Chin Labs in Camden, the Desert Bar in Rotherhithe and the Chin Chin Club in Soho another bit of magic from Irish Rugby Tours.

Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret
Part of the herb Garret




Hidden in the roof of a church, the 300-year-old herb garret houses Britain’s only surviving 19th-century operating theatre. If your favourite film is Saw then this is a must for you.  Get an insight into what surgery was like in the pre-anaesthetics era at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret.  Discover the historic operating theatre, hidden at the top of an old church, and learn about past operating techniques and practices great bit of macabre fun on our Irish Rugby Tours tour to London.


Wilton’s Music Hall

Wilton's Music Hall

Wilton's Music HallAs a young boy I used to watch BCC1s The Good Old Days where stars of the day would perform on stage wearing fashion of that period even the audience would turn up in costume too, so come and experience the world’s oldest and last surviving music hall. A guided tour around this grand hall offers a fascinating insight into Wilton’s Music Hall and London’s East End. The tour guide might just let you get up onto the stage to belt out a note or two all this on an Irish Rugby Tours tour.

Rugby World Classic Bermuda 4th – 11th November 2017

The World Rugby Classic Once Again comes to Bermuda in 2017.

One has to wonder “Why Bermuda?” Well it has to be for Bermuda Rugby – The Bermuda World Rugby Classic.

3,000 plus miles from the coast of England, 650 miles from the United States, a dot of some 22 sq.miles in the Atlantic, the tip of an undersea mountain range…how could this small group of Islands become an attraction for so many international rugby players out of the top drawer of the game?

Hardly a bastion of rugby, or so you would think! The World Rugby Classic is a Tournament like no other.

Well to answer that you have to cast your mind back to rugby in the early 1970’s when the only opportunity for an international rugby player to travel to “exotic” places was as part of the national team or be selected for the Lions tours to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.

Bermuda changed that thinking!

From the early seventies Bermuda has played host to many of the world’s most famous international players and it all started with the Easter Classic which involved just one match on Easter Sunday: the Bermuda-Irish against Bermuda.

International players, augmenting the local players, would fly in on a Thursday, enjoy a couple of days of Bermuda’s famous hospitality, play the game on the Sunday and then continue with the hospitality until they flew out on Tuesday, somewhat bleary-eyed but with some great memories.

Easter Sunday at the Classic quickly became a Bermuda tradition with a champagne brunch and some wonderful rugby. It was the start of Corporate Hospitality in Bermuda.

At that time of the year the Barbarians Tour to Wales was the only other rugby event over Easter and as an England captain was quoted as saying; “Which would you prefer, three tough games in Wales or a one match tour to Bermuda? Not a difficult choice?”

And at one point in time eight of the most capped players in the world had played in the Easter Classic, an annual event which lasted 21 years.

Many long-lasting friendships were built over the years and in 1988 the first World Rugby Classic, reaching out to many of those players, was started.

And so Bermuda quickly became the meeting place for many players from all around the world, who had played against each other over the years and were now given the opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones.

And so they came and will continue to do so.

Twenty-one Easter Classics and twenty-five World Rugby Classics attracting, over the years, some of the greatest names in the sport to a little island in the Atlantic.

Not bad?

Ten Things For Under A Tenner In… London Rugby Tours

Lovely London isn’t the cheapest city you could choose for a city break (in fact it was recently found to be one of the most expensive) – but it’s London. Like New York and Paris it’s just one of those cities where you just need to accept that it’ll be a pricey one, but worth every penny. That said, there are some amazing free and cheap things that you can do, see and eat there, perfect for anyone visiting London on a budget. Here are ten particularly good ones to get you feeling inspired…


Cereal Killer Café

Cereal Killer Café

Cereal Killer Café

When I was a child I was only allowed Cornflakes or Rice Krispies, with the ‘good’ cereal banned except for special occasions. Maybe that’s why the Cereal Killer Café appeals to me so much; it’s quite literally like all my Christmases have come at once. It’s a bit daft and it’s very nostalgic, and you can get a big bowl of cereal with flavoured milk and toppings from £4-£6. This might seem like a lot to pay for a bowl of cereal, but really – where/when else are you going to do it? Get a cereal cocktail if you’re feeling adventurous, and always go the whole hog with a stacked hot chocolate too; they’re frankly ludicrous (in the best possible way). Enjoy your sugar rush.


Free Walking Tour of London

Free Walking Tour of London

Free Walking Tour of London

Always a perfect way to get your bearings in a new place and best of all, totally free, walking city tours have taken over cities all over the world and London is no exception. Free Tours By Foot do some really nice tours, and they have a brilliant choice of different kinds of London walking tour you can take, from the classic city tour to my own personal favourite, the street art and graffiti tour. As with all ‘free’ tours, the idea is that you play what you can afford and what you thought it was worth. Be nice.


Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

It’s a serious affair. Don’t let the hats fool you.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a weird and wonderful spectacle that’s about as traditionally British a thing as you could possibly experience. You know the one, big black hats, bright red coats and absolutely no smiles whatsoever? The Buckingham Palace Guard Mounting lasts for about 45 minutes and happens at 11:30, but it doesn’t happen every day all year round. If you’re not visiting in summer, you can check the schedule here. Don’t forget your camera for this one.


Bustling Borough Market

Bustling Borough Market

Bustling Borough Market

Borough Market is London’s food heaven. It’s not just about the food there though, it’s a proper little slice of London life. The people, the atmosphere, the buskers – all of it makes Borough Market a thoroughly lovely place to wander around. If you’re the sort of person who likes to get chatting to new people you’ll be in your element. If you get peckish, follow your nose (and the sweet smell of freshly baked things) to the Bread Ahead stall for a doughnut; they’re only £2.50 each, and my word are they good. The caramel with salted honeycomb is top class. Enjoy another sugar rush.


British Museum

British Museum

British Museum

The British Museum is big. You could easily spend a whole day here wandering around (oh, wear comfortable shoes by the way) so if you don’t have that time to spend, my advice is to do a bit of research first, and plan to visit the bits that really interest you the most. If you visit the website there’s good information for seeing the best stuff within a three hour visit. The ancient Egyptian pieces are very, very cool – but they’re also really popular, so prepare for crowds. Totally worth it, though.


Twinings Tea Shop and Museum

Twinings Tea Shop and Museum

Twinings Tea Shop and Museum

The UK is the 5th biggest tea drinking nation in the world, and Twinings is one of the UK’s most famous tea brands. Their tea shop, ‘216 Strand’, has been selling tea for over 300 years, and you can go there and sample their gorgeous teas while learning a little more about the history of tea in Britain. There’s no obligation to buy anything, but why wouldn’t you want a delicious, comforting little souvenir to take home with you – you’ll get plenty for a tenner. Their Earl Grey is tough to beat.





London’s park game is very strong indeed, with loads of big green spaces around the place where you can go to lie about in the sun, relax, do a little boating, hire a bike, play football, and/or escape from London’s madding crowds. St. James Park and Hyde Park are two obvious and great choices, but if you want to go a little wilder, head out to Bushy Park or Richmond Park, and go hang out with the bellowing deer, the herons and the kingfisher. Careful in mating/rutting season though, the deer can get a little rambunctious.


The Royal Air Force Museum

The Royal Air Force Museum

The Royal Air Force Museum

Yet another free museum in London, the RAF Museum has a great collection of over 100 aircraft on display, as well as loads of information about the history and heroes of the Royal Air Force over the years. You can see Spitfires, Tiger Moths, a Vulcan bomber, and an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet among other things, and don’t miss the new ‘WWi in the Air’ exhibition. There are two very cool flight simulators that cost £3 to try, and a 4D cinema that costs £4. Have a go on all three for your tenner.


Have a Beigel Bake

Have a Beigel Bake

Have a Beigel Bake

All day every day

There’s a place on Brick Lane called Beigel Bake. Beigel Bake has been making beautiful bagels since 1977, and it’s become a bona fide London institution. It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it serves up some seven thousand bagels every day. It’s every bit as popular with the business lunch crowd as it is with the 4am booze-hunger crowd because, quite simply, it makes amazing salt-beef sandwiches. The beef is cooked as perfectly as the bread is baked, and put together with a smear of mustard and a pickle it’s pretty much sandwich nirvana. And it’s yours for between £3.70-4.20. I’d usually say ‘get two’ but these are really filling. If you’re in London on a budget, you can’t do better.


Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

London’s Natural History Museum houses a superb collection with hundreds of excellently curated and interactive exhibitions… and it’s totally free to visit. If you’re a fan of dinosaurs, or if you’re the parent of one (a fan, not a dinosaur), then you genuinely couldn’t pick a better place to go – the Dinosaur Gallery is brilliant, with a roaring T Rex, a Triceratops skull, and loads of information about ow the dinosaurs lived, and died, here on earth. Don’t miss the blue whale model in the mammal room either!

Rugby Tours to Ireland Alive & Kicking

Xavier High School Rugby Tour Ireland 2016

For almost 30 years now I have been conducting tours of Ireland & the UK for many different clients in both the corporate and leisure markets. The funny thing is that you never really forget the people you work with even though the times and dates tend to become somewhat fuzzy through the passage of time. That said, I don’t think I will forget too easily the past 10 days touring Ireland with Xavier High School Rugby teams from New York. We don’t tend to associate rugby so quickly with the US but what I’ve witnessed both on and off the field during this memorable trip will stay with me forever.

I was impressed with the way Xavier approached and prepared for this series of test matches in true typical American style with well established Irish teams. The old guard if you like. Based in Cork for the first 3 days of the tour, our first rugby experience was to attend the Guinness Pro 12 game between Munster and Zebre at Thomond Park in Limerick. Munster, odds on favorites did what was expected and saw off Zebre with out really having to apply typical Munster pressure. The Xavier boys enjoyed the experience immensely as for many of them they got to witness at first hand and for the first time in their short lives the levels of professionalism and skill that exists within the modern European game.

The next day it was down to business with two matches at the legendary Presentation College Brothers in Cork. Much to my surprise Xavier turned heads with their quick release passing and speed resulting in a draw and an impressive win. Keep in mind too, that these players were not used to playing on grass and many did not have the suitable foot ware for these alien conditions. Afterwards, there were speeches, photos and the exchanging of club memorabilia accompanied with some excellent home cooking which was scoffed down and enjoyed by one and all. That evening after dinner at our tour hotel it was off to witness Cork Constitution v Terenure College in the UBL division 1A where Cork Con recorded a fine win in tough conditions, collecting a valuable bonus point in the process ! Whilst in Cork we also managed to enlighten the boys and coaches to the wonderful history and culture of the city which included a visit to the magnificent Blarney Castle where all but a few lined up to kiss the famous stone of eloquence.

Day 4, a day of sightseeing, started in bright spring sunshine with a hearty Irish breakfast before departing to Galway via the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park. Remember too that this was Easter Sunday, not just any Easter Sunday but the one that would mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Up-rising, the event that changed Irish history forever. The country was celebrating.

On arrival that afternoon in Galway the cultural capitol of Ireland, Irish Rugby Tours had an arranged training session with renowned Irish rugby coach Nigel Carolan who put the boys through their paces and was only too happy to share his knowledge and experience with them.

The next day we headed via Connemara to the beautiful village of Cong in county Mayo, the home of John Wayne and Maureen O Hares’ block buster movie “The Quiet Man”. I know the boys had no real knowledge of this movie but they were taken by the sheer beauty and charm of Cong. When we traveled onto the grounds of Ashford Castle they were blown away. As luck would have it Irish Rugby Tours had arranged for us to be accompanied by Brendan Flanagan who conducted a most informative tour of the Castle and Village. Brendan a local lawyer is also President of Ballinrobe Rugby Club which was the venue that afternoon for the next two test matches. Before we departed a wholesome lunch was served in Ryan’s Hotel in Cong. It was there we were joined by Xavier High’s most distinguished past pupil, teacher and coach Mike Tolkin who’s illustrious career has seen him reach the summit of world rugby as the former US head coach.

As our motor coach eased through the tight gap of the old gates to Ballinrobe Rugby Club you could almost taste the anticipation on board as the Xavier boys and coaches were now chomping at the bit to get on the field once more for their next challenge. To my great surprise Xavier swept Ballinrobe away in both games. Again quick hands, strong mauling, decisive turnovers were to rule the day although to offer some defense to Ballinrobe, the club had just won the Connacht Junior Cup Plate the day before and were most likely still in celebratory mode. That however, didn’t stop their wonderful hospitality afterwards as we all retreated to Costello’s Bar for pizza and refreshments which was of course accompanied with some humorous speeches and the exchanging of awards and memorabilia by both clubs.

On the morning of day 7 we departed Galway for Dublin, the final leg of the tour. That afternoon one of the highlights of this busy tour came in the form of the Gaelic Games Experience. This wonderful initiative is designed to introduce overseas visitors to Gaelic Football and the ancient Irish sport of Hurling. You could see how much the boys and coaches enjoyed not only having Gaelic Games explained to them but getting the chance to actually play the sport was so well received.

Standing on the sidelines at Na Fianna CLG and watching, I was very entertained to see players that grew up with American football, baseball and basketball strut their stuff in our Gaelic games. You could see how hard it was for some to resist moves that would not look out of place on the basketball court or American football field. When the final whistle blew the players simply did not want to stop, they loved it so much. That evening and the following morning there was more rugby coaching, this time with Tony Smeeth, Director of Rugby at Trinity College Dublin and long time friend to Irish Rugby Tours.

As part of keeping the balance right between rugby and sightseeing on day 8 we treated the players and coaches to a tour of the world famous Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Our luck was totally in as our stadium guide turned out to be none other than the famous “bagman” Paddy O’ Reilly affectionally known as “Rala” by friends and players. Coaches and players may come and go but Rala has been a constant in the Irish national set up for more than 20 years with many players describing him as being like a father figure to them during their time with the national squad. Rala had no problem sharing some of his greatest memories with the Xavier boys as he showed them around the Aviva with heart felt familiarity. Later that day everyone climbed aboard two WWII ducks for the Viking Splash Tour of Dublin which turned out to be a big hit as they hollered their way through the streets of the ancient Capitol.

Day 9. The big challenge ! Yes it was time to take on Blackrock College Dublin. Again two games were organized and everyone knew this was not going to be easy. This proved to be true as in both games Blackrock commanded a healthy lead early on. In fact they looked out of sight before Xavier eventually managed to put a score on the board. You could sense the relief when they did, at least the whitewash would be avoided. But heres the funny thing, Xavier really started to believe when they did score in both games and as they grew into the games they started to match Blackrock albeit a little too late to change the overall result. Now at least they know where the bar is set for future achievement. Before departing the players had the chance to mingle over lunch and formalities. You could see where distant friendships could evolve and the ever strengthening Irish American connection through the game of rugby.

With the rugby over for this tour everyone could relax and look forward to a good night out at the “Merry Plough Boys” Irish evening and dinner before spending the final day enjoying a tour of Croke Park the home of Gaelic Games, a visit to see The Book of Kells’ at Trinity College and the popular Guinness Brewery Storehouse tour. After dinner much fun was had back at our tour hotel as the players put on a show for the coaches and conducted a very entertaining kangaroo court.

Like I said at the beginning of this article I won’t forget this tour too easily. It was a great experience for me personally and I’m sure it will live long in the memories of the players and coaches of Xavier High School. It would be a fine tribute to the sport of rugby to think that the experience these young men enjoyed will go someways towards shaping their future careers and lives, be they sporting or otherwise. They did their school and the game proud, what more could we ask for.

Would you really leave the heat for an Irish Rugby Tour

Abu Dhabi Harlequins – U14’s + Parents Visit to Ireland March 2016

Abu Dhabi Harlequins - U14’s Rugby Team

Q: Why would a group of ex-pat kids and their parents from all over the world want to leave hot sunshine to come to Ireland in the month or March?

A: For the welcome, for the scenery, for the pubs, for the rugby and for the snow!

The group flew from Abu Dhabi to Dublin using various connections and met in Dublin Airport for departure to Galway. The tone for the trip was set with a light hearted introduction to the highlights of Irish history to help the visitors to understand why the Ireland is what she is today.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins - U14’s Rugby TeamThere was no delay in getting into the business end of the visit with distribution of complimentary rugby kit and a training session for the team with an international rugby coach at the University Playing Fields. While the team were being put through their paces, the parents were occupied too with a walking tour of Galway City. Highlights included the buskers in Shop Street, the River Corrib the shortest in Europe and the magnificent Galway Cathedral which mesmerised the visitors. The Menlo Park Hotel pushed the boat out providing a separate room for the dinner and team meeting and providing a breakout room for the team to ‘hang out’.

Next day after a superb Irish Breakfast with all the trimmings departure was made for the first match of the tour against Monivea RFC. The welcome here was very warm both on and off the pitch. Harlequins won the match getting the tour off to a great start. The after match soup, sandwiches and conviviality led us to linger for quite a while after the presentations of awards. That evening all attended the Sportsground for the top of the table Pro 12 match between Connaught and Leinster. What an atmosphere, what a game, what a result! Connaught won by 7-6 much to the delight of the home crowd who celebrated with many renditions of the ‘Fields of Athenry’ and ‘The West’s Awake’.

The next day, wild weather welcomed us to beautiful Lahinch and the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. The storm created magnificent waves that excited the group and reminded them that we were at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. After a ‘bad hair day’ on the Cliffs the welcome in the nearby Doolin Hotel was very well received. The return journey was passed with the teaching of the popular Irish song ‘The Wild Rover’.

The following day, Ballina and Ballyhaunis provided the opposition for a three way competition in Ballina Rugby Club. The welcome once again was special with lots of parents and supporters turning out for the match and the afters. Harlequins won both matches keeping their 100% tour record. Many of the Ballina supporters had sore heads from the celebrations from the night before when they had won the Connaught Junior Cup. Excellent integration between the players after the games when jerseys were swapped. Arrived in Westport to take up residence in the Westport Coast Hotel. An evening visit to the world famous Matt Molloy’s pub finished a perfect day.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins - U14’s Rugby Team

Now for the snow! We wrapped up and boarded the bus for a climb of the 2,500 ft Croagh Patrick named after our national saint. Conditions were poor with intermittent rain, sleet and poor visibility from time to time. As we reached the shoulder at about 1500 ft we encountered a blizzard and lost visibility. The decision was made to retrace our steps to a local pub, but the experience of climbing in a blizzard was special as many of the kids had never seen snow before. Tired limbs made for a quite evening.

Next day it was off to Dublin for a trip with Viking Splash Tours when the tourists on the vehicle roar at the tourists in the street! An enjoyable trip was had by all before departing for the fourth match of the tour against Seapoint RFC. This was a tough game for Harlequins and it resulted in the first defeat of the tour but a lot of valuable lessons learned. A fantastic meal was served up to team and parents alike helped to block the memory of the defeat.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins - U14’s Rugby Team

The second last day dawned for the the essential visit to the Guinness Storehouse where the best pint of Guinness in the world is served in the bar with the best view of Dublin. The pints prepared the supporters to shout on the team at the final match of the tour against Suttonians RFC which resulted in another win for ‘quins. Once again fantastic food and mingling with locals after the match when kids and adults alike shared stories with the home team and supporters.

The last day finished withe a visit to Croke Park third largest stadium in Europe. The skyline walk across the roof of the stadium was followed by a trial at the unique Irish games of Gaelic Football and Hurling.

A fantastic time was had by all with great stories, great rugby and great memories of the visit to Ireland.


Italy Rugby Legends Join Irish Rugby Tours

One of the Finest Front Row Combinations to Play International Rugby in recent times have joined the Team here at Irish Rugby Tours.

Our Good Friends - Fabio Ongaro and Toto Perugini

Our Good Friends – Fabio Ongaro and Toto Perugini have come on board with us here to develop further our Links with Italian Rugby. Irish Rugby Tours probably have some of the strongest rugby links over any other operator due to the close working relationship with teams such as the Italian National Team, Italian Rugby Federation at all Levels, Zebre Rugby, Benetton Treviso, Mogliano & Rugby Rovigo to name but a few. Italy Rugby Tours with Irish Rugby Tours are miles ahead of the rest.

Over the coming moths and years we will be working closely with both of our friends and there will be occasions when teams can dine with the boys in the Galloway Restaurants, Drink with them in Gulliver’s Pup and even help them with their new catering business Uno Due and eat some chips and have a beer with them. Most recently St. Mary’s College California had a session with Zebre and ate with the team after the training session in the club dining hall. Little did the US College know that they had training with over 1000 Caps including the Bergamasco Brothers – Mauro & Mirco too. That is what awaits you all in Italy with Irish Rugby Tours.

2015-09-23 13.41.37Ongaro won his first cap in 2000 when the Azzurri played against Canada in Rovigo, in a 17–22 loss. Ongaro played every match for Italy in the 2003 World Cup. He scored the crucial try that helped beat Scotland 20–14 inRome in the 2004 Six Nations Championship. His rise to the top peaked in November 2004 when he was named as Italy captain in place of the injured Marco Bortolami. He played 2 matches at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He has been a regular player at the Six Nations since 2003. He played his last international match for Italy against Scotland on 17 March 2012. Fabio has over 80 Caps for Italy and player for the Barbarians on a Couple of occasions too.2015-09-23 15.10.03

Perugini made his international debut against Ireland in Italy’s opening game of the 2000 Six Nations.

Perugini made his name in Italy with Calvisano before representing his country at U21 and A level. He signed for French giants Toulouse before securing a place in the 2006 Six Nations’ “Team of the Tournament”. He represented Italy at the 2007 World Cup, playing games against New Zealand, Portugal and Scotland before playing a full part in Italy’s 2008 Six Nations campaign, winning his 50th cap against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Perugini also enjoys lining up for the Barbarians.

His most recent move took him back to Italy with Aironi in 2010 ahead of their debut season in the Magners League. Perugini will remain there for the 2011-12 season and will go to the World Cup with Italy having been named in their 30-man squad. Toto has 83 Caps for Italy and holds the records for most caps without scoring a Single Point.

Some of the Fantastic Highlights of a Rugby Tour to Italy with Irish Rugby Tours:2015-09-23 13.37.15

  • Attend RABO PRO12 Match with Zebre Rugby as Guests of Honour
  • Enjoy Traditional Italian Gelato @ Gaia Natural
  • The Hidden Secret of Pepen Panini’s Sandwiches
  • Training Session with Coaches & Players from Zebre Rugby
  • Tour of Parma Cathedral
  • Pizza Making Class
  • Dinner with Toto Perugini & Fabio Ongaro – Italy’s Most Capped Front Row!
  • Visit Palazzo della Pilotta.

Paul Emerick – Irish Rugby Tours USA Rugby Ambassador

Irish Rugby Tours are delighted to announce Paul Emerick as our USA Rugby Ambassador. Paul is a true professional in every aspect and we are over the moon to have him as part of our Team here at Irish Rugby Tours.

Paul was born in Emmetsburg, Iowa and played his university rugby with the University of Northern Iowa Panthers. He then moved into senior rugby with the Chicago Lions.

He moved to Italian rugby in the 2004–05 season joining Amatori Catania and then to Overmach Parma the following season. In the summer of 2006 Emerick completed a move to Celtic League side Newport Gwent Dragons, the side he helped knock out of theHeineken Cup in a playoff a few months earlier with Overmach Parma.

In 2008 he re-joined Italian club Overmach Parma from Welsh regional side Newport Gwent Dragons. Overmach Parma had gone through a re-organisation that saw the club merge with Noceto in August 2010 to form Crusaders Rugby Parma.

In September 2010 he joined Ulster Rugby on a 3 month contract. He signed a deal with London Wasps in February 2012. On August 7, 2013 Paul announced his retirement from professional rugby.

Paul was first capped by the USA Eagles in April 2003 against Spain and as of September 2011 and has been capped 45 times scoring 15 tries (75 points).

As of June 19, 2012 he had notched 14 career tries for the United States, ranking him second on the all-time list and first among active players.

Concussion – where do we stand?

Saturday nights Pro12 semi final at the RDS restored my faith in the game of rugby union.

As Brian O’Driscoll lay slumped in a heap in the middle of the pitch after smashing his head in a tackle, I questioned whether the Leinster medical staff would do the right thing.

Would the great centre stagger to his feet and insist on playing on for the rest of the second half, as he has done on numerous previous occasions, or would the experts intervene and demand that he come off for treatment?

Thankfully common sense prevailed and in spite of his protests, O’Driscoll was helped off the field of play.  There was little doubt about the seriousness of what had happened; the Ireland centre took a heavy blow to the head in the act of making a tackle and he appeared to be concussed. His head came in direct contact with an opposition players knee and in the sixty seconds that followed, O’Driscoll was unable to move.

Two more concussion related incidents took place before the final whistle at the RDS and thankfully, in both cases, the players involved were hauled off.  Watching from the sidelines it was the minimum I expected, but after several questionable decisions on concussion related injuries this season, it was a relief that the proper protocols were adhered to.

Just two weeks ago, in the Top 14 in France, I despaired for the future of the game.

Toulouse and France centre Florian Fritz was on the end of a crunching blow in the league play off match against Racing Metro.  He was was quite clearly suffering from concussion.  As he fought with his own medical staff and staggered off the pitch to the dressing room, it was immediately apparent that he should play no further part in the match.

Incredibly, some ten minutes later, Fritz came back onto the pitch.

Subsequent television footage emerged showing Toulouse head coach Guy Noves encouraging his player out of the medical treatment room and back to rejoin his team mates.  It was difficult to watch and deeply upsetting.

After dragging its heals for far too long on the issue of player concussion, the IRB is finally beginning to do something about it.  Recent protocols for player treatment and a concussion bin have gone some way towards addressing the issue but the governing body needs to go further.

As it stands at the moment, team doctors have the final say on whether or not a player is fit to continue playing following a suspected concussion.  This makes little sense.

A team doctor is employed by a club and therefore cannot be impartial.  The game needs an independent, medically qualified assessor to determine if a player is fit to continue playing.  The current system places far too much pressure on team doctors to make a decision in the clubs best interest and not in the interests of the injured player.

As for Noves, he ought to know better.  A long time club coach at one of the most successful sides in the northern hemisphere, his actions in the aftermath of Fritz being taken off merits further investigation.  All teams play to win but sport, professional and amateur, cannot come before player welfare.

Which makes the events at the Madeira Islands Open last week even more difficult to fathom.

Caddy Iain McGregor suffered a heart attack in the closing stages of the second round and lost his life on the course.  Inexplicably, the tournament organisers allowed play to continue.  Alastair Forsyth, for whom McGregor was caddying, played on for the rest of his round.  The entire thing was an absolute disgrace.

The European Tour has since issued an apology but it beggars belief that a golf tournament was allowed to continue after a man lost his life on the course.

What sort of values are we trying to teach here? That human life does not matter as long as the commercial interests of tournament organisers and sponsors are well served?

I can think of no other sport where an event would be allowed to continue in such tragic circumstances.  What must McGregor’s family and friends think? What if it was a player that died on the course?

Ireland is a country that adores its sport. Such a passionate affair is possible only because of the men and women that sacrifice thousands of hours to excel at the top level.  But when sport transcends common decency and fails to protect the very people that make it possible, it ceases to become entertainment. The health and safety of players and participants must supersede all other objectives. If it does not, we are left with nothing but barbarity.