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Victor Ubogu

Rugby World Cup 2019 Diary Day 21-22

Day 21 A chilled day of work and fielding emails/calls from guests arriving for the England v France game having found out it has been cancelled due to the expected Typhoon …

Rugby World Cup 2019 Diary Days 15-16

Day 15 was another day of reminding myself I am not on holiday. Whilst all the new arrivals from the Uk, Singapore and Dubai were out checking the sites of Tokyo, the day was spent at my desk fine tuning plans for the next few weeks, catching on emails and responding to queries. The glamorous life of being away managing a tour! Albeit with a great view over Tokyo Bay. Today doesn’t beat being back at home in the office. 
Day 16 
I love big game days and today was no different. England had announced an exciting starting 15, full of power in the pack and speed out wide. Win today and England  qualify for the Quarter-Finals, lose today and Argentina will not go through the pool stages. All to play for! 

It was brilliant atmosphere on the roads leading up to the stadium; the Argentines do know how to party! I wasn't best pleased when arriving at the first in stadium bar an hour and 10 minutes before kick off to find the Strongbow cider with “SOLD OUT” across it! Damn! legged it to the next bar where luckily there was some left. Two pints later they were also sold out. Every stadium I have been to so far has run out of cider by half time. A couple of compromise cans of Heineken later I moved on to Whisky soda which is another dull option at the stadium. The stadium atmoshere was buzzing with English and Argentine fans in huge numbers. As predicted England were victorious against a spirited Argentinian side who played with 14 men for the best part of 60 minutes, following the red card handed to the second row for a high tackle on Owen Farell.  What a remarkable change from 2015, England are the first team to qualify for the Quarter-Finals! I wanted a more fluent and flowing peformance from England but hey, 6 tries, bonus point victory and through to the Quarters is a huge achievement. There is still plenty left in the tank for this England team and they will need come the knock out stage. And the celebrations continued at Bauhaus Roppongi well into the night!

If you fancy joining the VU party at the Quarter-Finals do email sales@vultd.co.uk for a bespoke package or book our standard package online now https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-hospitality/japan-2019-ground-packages-only 

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It was time to bid farewell to my American guests who are heading back home today after 10 days full of unforgetable memories and rugby matches. Japan has certainly been an amazing trip for them. For me, it's back to Tokyo and the arrival of UK guests for the England v Argentina game. No check in issues and a window seat with two windows and an upgraded room to the club floor at the Intercontinental Hotel with an amazing view of Tokyo Bay..it's the start of a brilliant weekend! 

Meanwhile Fiji put on an entertaining display thrashing Georgia 45-10; Ireland spluttered to winning ways against Russia a record score for the All Blacks against Canada 63-0 extending their RWC unbeaten run to a record 16 matches, the 3 Beauden brothers scoring a try apiece..its records all round as the All Blacks machine continues unabated. 

It was back to Two Rooms for a final tasting of red wines..hmmm..loved it! Menu and wine pairings for our Eve of Semis and Eve of Final dinners now decided. We do have a handful of spots left for the Eve of Semis dinner where I am joined by Lee Mears, Shane Williams, Mike Brewer and Scott Hastings for an evening of RWC rugby chat, great cuisine and fine wines. Email sales@vultd.co.uk for info if interested in joining us. Research continued to a few late bars and my pick of the bunch is R2 Supper club in Roppongi for late drinks & Dj, the newly opened 99 Sports Bar Roppongi for viewing matches & pool tables and a great vibe at Electric Ginger for late night live music with impromtu jamming sessions from musicians post their gigs at various venues across town. 

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Game day France v USA. We are at the stadium to a very lengthy queue for Gate 1 which we ignored and went to Gate 2 and was in the stadium in no time. The Japanese are real sticklers to structure and would rather join a queue 400 plus metre long because that’s their stated ticket entrance gate rather than look for a shorter queue at another gate. My American friends were not at all hopeful and simply wanted a good performance from their team. That they certainly got from a spirited USA team that at one point gave us hope of yet another upset. Go USA! I chanted with them. They just weren’t clinical enough to take advantage of their pressure points and France ran away with a bonus point victory in the dying minutes of the match.
Another superb stadium, weather was perfect with a cool breeze. The food selection on offer was excellent and tasted damn good and with all the delightful Asian spread on offer trust Christopher Chris Meredith and Ted Bentz to plumb for hog dogs..a reminder of back home USA! But just wish the stadium bars would stop running out of Strongbow cider before the first half is over and expand the choice of alcoholic beverages available.
We just couldn’t resist a final night of ramen at the Yatai where I bumped into France rugby star, Thomas Castaignede enjoying same! There a group of Japanese next to us and the lady sat next to me welcomed me to Japan and apologised for being so so hammered! It was only 8pm. Her male friend was even more hammered, squeezing my guns & declaring his love for me! We went on a bar crawl, for research purposes of course, when we are back here again for the Quarter-Finals. We went across the river which was where I bought the most expensive glass of water for Miko. We should have known better as some upscale bars do have a cover charge for the seat. The barman hadn’t pre warned us and one round of drink later we asked for the bill and noticed Y1000 seat charge per person had been added! That’s approx £8 plus cost of water! Nice bar though.. but that was a sly move.
Next stop Tokyo for England v Argentina!

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Travel day today to Fukuoka for the France v USA game. Time at the ANA check in desk was unusually time consuming luckily Miko was there to help with language issues. We got bumped off rows of prebooked exit rows as we couldn’t speak Japanese. Sorting out which seats to relocate us to was very frustrating. I requested a window seat but was offered a window seat with no window! Chris Meredith was offered a seat but, wait for it, it doesn’t recline. When Michael was offered an aisle seat he asked “ Does that come with aisle?!” We broke up in uncontrollable fits of laughter! During our stay in Kyoto I had noticed the bar menu had Octopus balls on the menu and had thought it was actually the balls of Octopus so avoided it. However, at the airport cafe only Octopus balls was offered and I could see how they were been made right in fro t us realised it was simply Octopus rolled into a ball with some light batter etc.. the boys roared! Fukuoka is famous for ramen. The Nakasu yatai – rows of stalls offering ramen along the Nakasu canal is very popular and vibrant. We enjoyed a superb evening of ramen chicken and the owner Kyoko of Sanyu Yatai was a lively host. Well worth a visit if you are visiting Fukuoka. USA v France.. another upset? Wouldn’t that be great! We have a handful of spots left at our Eve of Semis dinner at Two Rooms Grill Bar where I’ll be joined by Lee Mears, Scott Hastings, Michael Brewer and Shane Williams. For info email sales@vultd.co.uk

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Day 8 was a complete rest from rugby with no games on – a welcomed break following a long night out in Dontonbori.
Day 9 saw us on the morning train from Osaka to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto. The Hyatt Regency has transformed one of their meeting rooms to the Heineken Sports bar installing huge screens around the room and its own dedicated bar, fantastic!
We camped there and saw Argentina dominate Tonga as predicted gaining a much needed victory. Then the Japan v Ireland came on. It seemed Ireland would coast to victory after the opening quarter but Japan stepped up several gears and were relentless both in defence and attack right through to the final whistle. An incredible performance which has set the nation buzzing! Dinner that night at Gohanya Shinkiro in Gion was a 6 course delight washed down by a variety of local sake – superb value at £60pp all in. And we went hard in the Karaoke bar, Seeks, singing our hearts out with songs in English bouncing against other tables with songs in Japanese. You cannot do Japan without a few visits to Karaoke bars.. great entertainment! The lightweight yanks base farewell and went back to the hotel to crash but I soldiered on to discover a late night basement and bar/club with a first for me.. a Rastafarian Japanese Dj spinning the tunes! Can’t recall the name but it was on kayamachi Shijo close the Hub British pub.

Australia v Wales was another top game on Day 10 and again with some refereeing issues which saw Michael Cheika in the post match interview holding back on what he really wanted to say and just cut the interview short, stropping off! Wales are looking every bit the 6 Nations champions and will be very difficult to beat by most sides. They just keep finding ways to win games. Dinner at Itoh restaurant in Gion was top draw.. the Kobe beef was so succulent I could have eaten the entire cow.. but only got 100g.. there was another 4 courses so I didn’t have to stop at the kebab post dinner! Actually I don’t recall spotting a kebab shop anywhere in Japan so far.
Lunch on Day 11 was at Omen. If you are visiting the Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) then this a must stop for lunch – best ramen in town.
There was a lot of sweat pouring off the Scots & Samoan players in the heat and humidity of Kobe. An error strewn game which Scotland controlled gaining a questionable bonus point try from yet another controversial refereeing decision. This could have a huge impact as to which teams qualify for the knockout between Ireland Scotland and Japan.
The World Cup is building up nicely to be the best so far.

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We celebrated well into this morning following England’s bonus win victory over the USA last night. A well deserved final try of the match by USA which every ounce of effort by the 14 Eagles on the pitch against an England side desperate to keep a clean scoreboard closed the game off. Personally I was looking forward to some excitement and spark by the England back line but hadn’t factored in the doggedness of the USA team who made England work very hard for this victory. The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing, Kobe stadium impressive and operational delivery by the Japanese was faultless. Again there was hardly any traffic around the stadium area and we were in and out so quickly and back to Osaka in no time.
We hit Dontonbori hard! It was comical watching an overserved Ted, using google voice translation, chatting to another overserved Japanese local! We revisited Freedom Bar and overindulged in local whisky ending up in G3 where a superb DJ was in full flow, our bodies gyrated in sync well into the early morning.
Up next Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan and then France v USA in Fukuoka.
England are building up nicely in the right direction and will need to step it up another few gears against an Argentinian side fighting for a seat in the last 8. The pack is pretty much settled, however, I am not convinced the back line is. What’s your starting England back line?
I love my job!

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Real shame to have missed the amazing Uruguay victory over Fiji today. What a fantastic & unexpected result for them! It just shows if you put in the hard yards and have the desire then you can achieve the result you want. The post match tears by their players showed how much it meant to them.

I have enjoyed meeting some the locals of Osaka. Dontonbori was buzzing as expected. Noticing that we were visitors, a very generous local sat on the next table bought us a bottle of sake, welcome us to his city! The hot sake went down very well and complimented the delicious crab and sushi on my plate. if you make it to Osaka bar hop along the canal in Dontonbori it is absolutely beautiful, reminiscent of Amsterdam. Can’t wait to see England play tomorrow for the first time since arriving in Japan, in particular, the exciting back line.

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A little groggy after wine and menu tasting last night. Luckily we left Tokyo for Osaka by bullet train – the smoothest of train rides almost as smooth as Ade Adebayo on a night out in London back in the day!
Just seen the England XV announced for the game against USA on Thursday. There is plenty of gas here and a team well capable of getting a result against the USA at Kobe. An exciting back line – hope they get plenty of ball, if so, they should do some serious damage! Cant wait to see them in action!

England starting XV
15 Elliot Daly (Saracens, 34 caps)
14 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 43 caps)
12 Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, 8 caps)
11 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 8 caps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 60 caps) C
9 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 5 caps)
1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 63 caps)
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 16 caps)
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 90 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 61 caps)
5 George Kruis (Saracens, 36 caps)
6 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 14 caps)
7 Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 46 caps)

Finishers
16 Jack Singleton (Saracens, 2 cap)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 13 caps)
18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 26 caps)
19 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 76 caps)
20 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/ Sale Sharks, 15 caps)
21 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 90 caps)
22 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 74 caps)
23 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 37 caps)

Don’t forget we are still in sale with 6 Nations Rugby and availability is good for the Opening weekend when France welcome England at Stade de France on 2nd February, The Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield on 8th February and the final game of the championship when England are in Rome on 14th March is very tight on availability. Email sales@vultd.co.uk for more info. Of course if you need any assistance with coming to Japan for the knockout stages we are able to help!

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After two back to back days at Yokohama Stadium and jet lag I was knackered! Had to remind myself Sunday is a school night and I am not on holiday.. am sure many of you will disagree! Great result for Wales as expected against Georgia with a bonus point to boot – only saw the highlights though, menu and matching wines tasting at Two Rooms Grill was in my diary for this evening. Joined by my amazing assistant and translator, Miko it was an enjoyable evening of fine food and we decided to take some of the wines up another level which only meant tasting more vino of course! I am so looking forward to enjoying the two evenings there and the usual rugby banter with friends & some Rugby Legends.
Be part of it by emailing sales@vultd.co.uk and let us take care of your ground arrangements in Japan.

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RWC 2019 Day 3
Yokohama stadium was awash with green shirts of Ireland with a splintering of the blue of Scotland. The heavy dominance of Irish fans over the Scots was reflected in the game, even the Japanese supporters behind me were singing the Irish anthem, albeit reading the words from their mobiles!
An assured performance by Ireland – they are back to their form of last year!
And yes with the UK fans in full flow at Yokohama there was a reversal of the queues – minimal interest in merchandising and a lot more at the bars which were kept very busy! The atmosphere in the stadium was pumping.. a change from the NZ v SA game which was dominated by local neutral fans.
caught a little of the England game but a bonus point win is a fantastic result though reports were not very positive on England performance.
Stop dreaming about coming out to Japan and make it a reality..life’s too short! Email sales@vultd.co.uk and come party with me!

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A cracking day of rugby and some moments of hope. Who would have thought Fiji would have given the Wallabies a run around for as long as they did before the Oz power pack regained control of the match and put it beyond doubt. Had to dash midway through the second half of that match to Yokohama for NZ v SA – the game of the weekend. The All Blacks defence in the first quarter had to be watertight to prevent the huge SA onslaught that followed from the very start. South Africa failed to turn their immense pressure and a dominance into points New Zealand on the other hand converted their opportunities into points and by half time seemed that they would run away with a significant scoreline. South Africa fought back bravely but again failed to convert opportunities into points. NZ are on a pathway to the Final! I am looking forward to tomorrow’s game between Ireland v Scotland at Yokohama – another cracker in waiting. Btw who fancies going? Oh and France just squeezed past Argentina but didn’t get to see any that game as already left for NZ v SA game..

Yokohama Stadium lessons from today..
– buy your merchandise online.. massive snaking queues at the stadium! Or post match as minimal queues.
Eat before you get there..again massive snaking queues!
Get into the stadium early .. minimal queues for beers! Beers sold to you at your seat..heaven!
If you are travelling by train post match don if you are still thinking of heading out to Japan and need any help with hotel and ground arrangements am happy to assist for some coin! Email me at sales@vultd.co.uk or visit www.vultd.co.uk
Btw change your sterling to Yen before you leave as I was quoted a rate of 114 yen to the pound at a Travelex office! I declined! ’t bother rushing off.. see video..

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The 9th annual Cyclothon UK took place on Thursday and was once again delivered with aplomb by my amazing team.
 
A beautiful sunrise marked the start of the 12-hour relay race with 25 teams eager to lift the Cyclothon Trophy. Furniture Village showed us once again how a garage should be decked out…. a beautiful leather sofa bed, complete with bedding and scatter cushions, amazing massage armchair and even a chargeable side table complete with Bluetooth speakers!
 
A safety briefing from our brilliant MC Anthony McCrossan and a welcome by me and they were off.  Record lap times and fastest up the hill times were set early on in the day when all our cyclists were still full of energy and fuelled by an epic Brands Hatch breakfast!
 
The sun shone, but a brisk wind gave the cyclists a bit of challenge.  The rugby girls and boys put in a variety of performances and were all on fabulous form.  Chris Whitehead’s bike arrived with a flat tyre, covered in cobwebs and snails – signs of considerable training! 
 
The afternoon was peppered with prizes from Schwalbe, Elemis and Swerve.  NamedSport energy bars and gels were handed to anyone feeling fatigued and moods were lifted thanks to a delicious afternoon tea.  One of our garage hosts even ran an impromptu yoga class for her garage riders. Athlete Angels once again provided restorative massage for sore limbs and Gary’s Bikes provided restorative mechanical expertise to sore bikes!
 
It was a closely fought race and congratulations to Darke and Taylor 1 for winning Cyclothon 2019. I do feel sorry for Team LSEG who were pipped into 3rd position by the smallest of margins, 0.1 seconds, as they made a dash for the line by the winners in 2018 & 2017, Team Sumo Digital 2. For the full results please visit http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/results.aspx?CId=16421&RId=280&EId=1

Great music, lots of laughs and a huge effort from the riders to raise considerable funds for their chosen charities made the day go super fast.  Fundraising took place for GamesAid, Atlas Foundation, Action Medical Research, Sobell House, Help for Heroes, Action Medical Research, Bone Cancer Research Trust and HQR Charitable Trust; to date over £25,000 has been raised taking us past the £350,000 mark since the event began.
 
There really is something quite special about the Cyclothon and that is mostly down to the riders themselves.  Their energy, humour, rivalry, and competitive approach no matter how good or bad they may be makes for a very entertaining day!
 
Thanks again to our sponsors Schwalbe, Furniture Village, Swerve Cycling and Sega for their continued support of the event. Also thanks to Elemis and NamedSport for contributing products to our Goody bag and thanks to all the Rugby players Chris Whitehead, John Hall, Lee Mears, Tamara Taylor, Laura Keates, Charlie Hodgson, Gavin Kerr, Ian Gough, Peter Rogers and Graham Dawe for giving up their valuable time to ride for The Bulldogs and The Dragons… so glad the Bulldogs triumphed this time!
 
Many thanks to all the riders that took part and made it a brilliant day. See you all again for our 10th edition of Cyclothon on Thursday 10th September 2020.

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Tell us what music means to you. See link for inspiration https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwTC9PMlcTs
Post your video on twitter or facebook or Linkedin. *Tag Nordoff Robbins & VU Ltd with #whatmusicmeanstome
& nominate a friend for your chance to win two tickets to 25th anniversary of the Legends of Rugby Dinner in aid of Nordoff Robbins & Honouring Tamara Taylor on Wednesday 15th January 2020
A winning video will be announced every Monday during August after 5pm starting from Monday 12th August. 

*@NordoffRobbins1 (Twitter)
@NordoffRobbins (Facebook)
@nordoffrobbins (Linkedin)
@VUhospitality (Facebook)
@VU_Ltd (Twitter)
@VictorUbogu(Linkedin)

Legends of Rugby Dinner in aid of Nordoff Robbins & honouring Tamara Taylor, Grosvenor House Hotel Wednesday 15th January 2020
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of this hugely entertaining event and this time we will be honouring the amazing career of Tamara Taylor, England Rugby’s second most capped player of all time. A first for this event as all previous honourees have been from England Men’s team. We plan to have as many of our previous recipients, listed below, in attendance:
 
Honours List
1997 Graham Dawe
1998 Nigel Redman
1999 Jon Callard
2000 Victor Ubogu
2001 Adedayo Adebayo
2002 Richard Cockerill, Darren Garforth, Graham Rowntree
2003 John Mallett
2004 Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Catt
2005 Jason Leonard
2006 Richard Hill
2007 Mark Regan
2008 Matt Perry
2009 Lee Mears
2010 Joe Worsley
2011 Ben Kay
2012 Simon Shaw
2013 Andy Gomarsall, Mark Cueto
2014 Ugo Monye
2015 Nick Easter
2016 Mike Tindall
2017 Chris Robshaw
2018 Charlie Hodgson
2019 Danny Care
 
Join over 80 current and former Rugby internationals in a celebration of the glittering career of Tamara Taylor whilst enjoying performances from top artists in support of Nordoff Robbins. In 2019 Texas, KT Tunstall and Collette Cooper joined a list of illustrious artists including Madness, Stereophonics, Bananarama, Tony Hadley, Steps, Simply Red, Dua Lipa, Emile Sande, Keane and Craig David that have graced the stage at this fantastic event over the years.
 
Itinerary
1830 Drinks reception
1930 call for Dinner
2000 3 course dinner is served
2130 Players onstage chat
2200 Auction
2230 Entertainment
2330 End of Acts
2345 – till you drop! After party at Karma Sanctum Soho Hotel
 
Each package includes:
Drinks reception
3 course dinner
Chat with Players on stage
Auction and Fundraising Games
Music Acts
After Party at Karma Sanctum Soho
 
BRONZE TABLE OF 10 – £3,250+VAT
Table of 10
 
SILVER TABLE OF 10 – £4,250+VAT
Table hosted by a Professional Rugby Player or former Rugby International
 
SILVER TABLE OF 10 & BROCHURE ADVERTISEMENT – £6,995+VAT
Preferred Table hosted by a Rugby International
Complimentary Full Page Feature in the Official Souvenir Programme
 
GOLD TABLE OF 10 – £7,995+VAT
Preferred Table position in front of stage
Table hosted by a Rugby International
Complimentary Double Page Feature in the Official Souvenir Programme 
 
PLATINUM TABLE OF 10 – £9,995+VAT
Premium Table position in front of stage
Table hosted by a Rugby International of your choice 
Complimentary Double Page Feature in the Official Souvenir Programme 

T&Cs
1. Two tickets on a shared table
2. Multiple entries allowed
3. Judges decision on winning videos final
4. Videos must be submitted by 4.30pm on Monday to enter that's weeks competition

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When you consider tranquil islands and spectacular diving destinations around the globe, Japan wouldn’t normally spring to mind.  But in fact, Japan is home to the Okinawa Prefecture which comprises over 150 islands in the East China Sea.  Hidden gems which are untouched by over- tourism.  Tropical climates, beaches and coral reefs abound here and I have been lucky enough to visit quite of few them recently. 
 
One such island is Ishigaki, the largest in the Yaeyama Island group, west of Okinawa Honto. Much of the island and surrounding waters are protected as part of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.  Now, as you know, I am an exceptionally seasoned traveller, but I would go so far as to say that the beaches would even give Hawaii a run for its money!  It really is a stunningly beautiful place.  The park is home to blue coral reefs, perfect for snorkelling, diving and fishing and if you fancy being a bit more adventurous, take a trip to, Maetake, a rainforest which has well maintained walking trails to explore.
 
One of my Japan 2019 ground packages,(between England v Argentina and England v France: Monday 7th – Friday 11th Oct),  offers a 5 night stay on the island staying in the luxurious InterContinental Ishigaki Resort. The perfect place to unwind in between the drama of the tournament.  I have also put together a day trip offering an island hopping tour on the  luxury charter boat, Carina, which can include a spot of diving, snorkelling and fishing if you wish.  Bliss!
 
So what are you waiting for? Come and join us!

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During my Japan tour I am very much looking forward to visiting Hiroshima. Hiroshima is located on Japan’s Honshu Island which was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. Today, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the 1945 tragedy. In the park are the ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that was left standing near ground zero. Other prominent sites include Shukkei-en, a formal Japanese garden, and Hiroshima Castle, a fortress surrounded by a moat and park. I am told that although the lingering effects of the bomb are still visible, the region has made an impressive recovery and today it is a busy, prosperous city with a population of over a million people.
 
Also on my list is a trip to Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima which is a small island in Hiroshima Bay. Just offshore you can visit the Great Torii Gate which is a giant, orange structure partially submerged in the sea at high tide. It marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine, which was first built in the 12th century. I can’t wait to experience this historic city with its World Heritage sites and famous shrines not to mention sample the local culture and entertainment.  Come and join me!
 
We still have spaces left and a trip to Hiroshima is available to book as part of the VU package options for Japan 2019. Email sales@vultd.co.uk or call our Sales team on 01225 788880 to build your dream Japan holiday.

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According to We are Cycling UK, 3% of the UK population…that’s 1.7 million people, cycle every day. I don’t fall into this percentage.
 
42% of the population own or have access to bike. Now I do fall into this percentage.  Cycling is known to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, improves mental health and well-being, and reduces risk of premature death and ill health. (www.cyclinguk.org/statistics)
 
With this in mind and some pretty glorious weather here in the UK….it really could be time to dust down the bike, pump up the tyres and slip into some bib shorts. I like to think that anyone can cycle – any age, any cycling experience and any shape.  Cycling is one of those fantastic activities that you can dip in and out of, get quite a lot of enjoyment from and then pop the bike back into the garage for a long rest!
 
I’ve signed myself up to a couple of cycling endeavours over the coming year.  Firstly the Cyclothon UK at Brands Hatch (https://vultd.co.uk/cycling-events/cyclothon-uk-2019-brands-hatch ). This is the VU LTD annual event where teams cycling around the circuit in a relay for an 8 or 12 hour challenge.  I like this event as it is open to all – to every cyclist of every ability.  You can be a serious rider and in it to win, or want to participate to raise money for a chosen charity, or be part of a work team-building day out.  Everyone is welcome.  It’s always a great day with a lot of old rugby boys cycling too. Book your team here
 
Next January I have also signed up to the Truants 2020 Vietnam bike ride, riding 220km through Vietnam from Phu to Halong.  This will be my 10th bike ride for the Truants – a brilliant group of people from all industries who come together to raise funds for NSPCC ChildLine, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and Teenage Cancer Care. Please sponsor me by visiting https://race-nation.com/sponsor/e/209308/ 
 
So, I am going to get out there people.  I may not ever make it into the 3% of people cycling every day, but will inch towards the 4% of the population who cycle once a week….well that’s the aim anyway!

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Last week, VU LTD were delighted to be the organisers for Tamara Taylor’s Testimonial Year launch.

It marked the launch of the first ever female Testimonial Year.  Tamara was awarded the year in recognition of her outstanding and hugely impressive contribution to rugby.   Her remarkable achievements include 115 Caps for England, part of the 2014 World Cup 2015 winning squad, Captain of the 2015 Six Nations.  In addition, she was awarded the 2017 RPA (Rugby Players’ Association) Player of the Year.  She is one of true embodiments of rugby in this country and we feel proud to be part of her Testimonial Year.
 
The launch was held at the at the famous Smith & Wollensky where guests from all walks of business were treated to their incredible canapes.   Here they were joined by many former and current rugby giants including Jason Leonard, Dylan Hartley, Mike Tindall, Martin Bayfield and Laura Keates in support of Tamara.  Campion Willcocks sponsored the event.  Mark Campion, Executive Chairman of Campion Willcocks and Trustee of the Restart charity, commented: “This was a unique and historic evening. I am so proud that we are helping Tamara push the boundaries and light a fire for professional female sport.”
 
Tamara has chosen 2 charities to fundraise for and we will be running a series of events during the forthcoming year: Women’s Sport Trust and Restart.  Three event highlights include the Tamara Taylor Year Dinner on Wednesday 11th September at Smith & Wollensky, London (https://vultd.co.uk/sporting-dinners/tamara-taylor-testimonial-year) and Tamara Taylor Testimonial Party in Newcastle on Friday 6th September in Bonbar, Assembly Rooms (https://vultd.co.uk/sporting-dinners/tamara-taylor-testimonial-year-party-bonbar-newcastle ) where guests can party with Tamara, Lee Mears and friends and go to watch the RWC England v Italy warm up game. And don’t miss the hugely popular Legends of Rugby Dinner where music and rugby come together on Wednesday 15th January 2020 at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House ( https://vultd.co.uk/sporting-dinners/legends-of-rugby-dinner-2020-in-aid-of-nordoff-robbins )
 
Three different events but both are set to be great fun, insightful and in support of some great causes.  Do get in touch if you would like to come.
 
Women’s Sport Trust
Founded in 2012, Women’s Sport Trust raises the visibility and increases the impact of women’s sport through the promotion of diverse athlete role models, increasing media coverage and improving the funding landscape. It is the leading UK charity focused on using the power of sport to accelerate gender equality and stimulate social change.
Charity No: 1153429
 
Restart
Restart is the official charity of the Rugby Players Association and is dedicated to supporting professional rugby players suffering from serious injury, illness or hardship. Our players give everything for club and country but their lives can change in an instant. Should the worst happen, Restart is there to provide financial, practical and emotional support, helping with the cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation and career transition. They also provide a counselling service for players and their families during their darkest times
Charity No: . 1113160
 

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Strong England XV v Ireland

Eddie has named a very strong side against Ireland this weekend. Surprised not to see Chris Ashton starting. This team is capable of winning on Saturday, provided the usual injury prone players can remain injury free..

England starting XV (485 caps)

15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 25 caps), 14 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps), 13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 17 caps), 12 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 27 caps), 11 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 29 caps), 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 65 caps), 9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 80 caps); 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 51 caps), 2 Jamie George (Saracens, 32 caps), 3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 17 caps), 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 26 caps), 5 George Kruis (Saracens, 27 caps), 6 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 8 caps), 7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 5 caps), 8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 36 caps).

Finishers (206 caps)

16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps), 17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps), 18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 15 caps), 19 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 68 caps), 20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 18 caps), 21 Dan Robson (Wasps, uncapped), 22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 51 caps), 23 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 42 caps).

#rugby

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Welcome to our first online venture into auctioning off some superb items prior to the Legends of Rugby Dinner in aid of Nordoff Robbins – a charity that uses the power of music to transform lives. The Legends of Rugby Dinner in aid of Nordoff will honour England Rugby's most capped scrum half, Danny Care on 16th January 2019 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London. 

Just because you are unable to make the dinner, doesn't mean you have to miss out on the opportunity to win some extraordinary prizes. Click on the link below to see the full list.
https://www.legendsofrugbydinnerinaidofnordoffrobbins.com/lite-ui/

You will be notified post event on the 17th January 2019 whether you have been successful.
Thanks to your generosity this event has raised over £1.6m for Nordoff Robbins to date. Let's try and break the £2m barrier this year! 
To whet your appetite, take a look at some sample lots below… Happy bidding!

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THE PAINTINGS

The KEITH RICHARDS and MICK JAGGER portraits (each 150x120cm) were painted by Barry Novis to honour two of Britain’s most iconic and enduring rock legends.

THE ARTIST

Paintings by Barry Novis hang in the homes and offices of celebrity and corporate collectors all over the world. Originally a sculptor, Novis is now internationally renowned for his bold in-your face paintings of music and sporting legends.

These two paintings will feature in our auction on 16th January 2019 at the Legends of Rugby Dinner in aid of Nordoff Robbins & honouring England Rugby's Danny Care. If you wish to place a bid on the paintings then please email sales@vultd.co.uk what you are prepared to bid for either or both paintings and we will let you know on the 17th January if your bid is successful. There is no need to attend the event, however, there are tickets still available. if you wish to attend then email us or call 01225 788880 for latest availability & price.

#rugby #icon #hospitality #painting

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Every year, around this time, I like to reflect on the year and whether we have made a difference.  The easiest thing for me to look at is the money we have helped to raise for our chosen charities.  This year those causes have been Bloodwise, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and Truants Bike Ride India which supports ChildLine, Nordoff Robbins and Teenage Cancer Trust. We raised just over £300,000. Thanks to all that attended our various events and supported our fundraising. Thanks also to my team at VU Ltd for their hardwork collating, delivering and managing the fundraising element of these events.  
 
Bloodwise is the blood cancer charity whose mission it is to fund research into all blood cancers, support patients and save lives.  My team at VU Ltd chose this charity as it is very close to their hearts.  Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy goal is to change lives through music.  They offer vital support to those with life-limiting illnesses, physical disabilities or emotional challenges. ChildLine is a free 24-hour counselling service for children and young people up to their 19th irthday in the UK provided by the NSPCC. ChildLine deals with any issue which causes distress or concern, common issues dealt with include child abuse, bullying, mental illness, parental separation or divorce, pregnancy and substance misuse.
Teenage Cancer Trust – Around seven young people aged between 13 and 24 are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. They need expert treatment and support from the moment they hear the word ‘cancer.’ Teenage Cancer Trust
is the only charity dedicated to making this happen by giving excellent cancer care and help, meaning that young people don’t have to face cancer alone.
 
Fundraising remains a core part of why I started my company.  I am not alone.  I sit amongst millions of people in the UK who believe that through charitable causes, we can make a difference.   It is this that makes us want to fundraise.  We all choose a cause that is close to our hearts.  We may be inspired by a family member, a friend or we may act in memory of someone special.  And of course, taking part really does make us feel good. 

Events already in the calendar for 2019 where there will be a charitable fundraising element include the Legends of Rugby Dinner in aid of Nordoff Robbins & honouring England rugby's Danny Care on 16th January 2019 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Rugby Legends Golf day at Stoke Park on 16th May, Cyclothon Brands Hatch on 5th September and Japan 2019 Rugby Dinner on 12th September at Smith & Wollensky Convent Garden. Do get in touch as tickets are available to attend these events.
 
I hope that through my work I am able to connect people.  Bringing people together in one place to learn about the extraordinary work of my chosen charities is a privilege.  There are reports that the UK give some £9 billion a year to charity.  This really is something to celebrate.  Despite all the challenges that are facing our political scene, giving remains a constant.  This makes me proud.
 
Thank you to all of you who have donated this year.

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This was a huge game that England threw away. The VU Clubhouse was buzzing with anticipation with the majority predicting an NZ win by 15-20 points. Guests enjoyed the company of Lee Mears, Jack Clifford, Martin Offiah and legendary All Black Jeff Wilson. The Twickenham atmosphere was superb and the opening sequence with Ashton scoring within a few minutes sent the crowd wild – the players could not have asked more of the support they gave. This was a proper test match and England boys will be very frustrated post match for having not seized the opportunity of a historic victory and laid down a marker for the upcoming Rugby World Cup. I still can't understand the continual early substitution of Dylan Hartley. Forget about the Sam Underhill disallowed try, I was screaming for a kick at goal when that penalty was awarded to England! I would expect Eddie to stick with the starting 23 for the remaining games and build some game time experience as the squad needs together time to gell and develop. Japan are up next Saturday at Twickenham. It's not too late to join Lee Mears and I in the VU Clubhouse and enjoy informal and relaxed quality match day hospitality with one kid U15 per Adult complimentary. Book online at https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-hospitality/old-mutual-wealth-series-2018-england-v-new-zealand 

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3 Changes to England Line up v New Zealand
Time for the England boys to deliver in of front of a packed house at Twickenham this Saturday!! For the players, win this game and you are on the list to Japan!

England starting XV
5 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 22 caps), 14 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 40 caps), 13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps), 12 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors, 14 caps), 11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 38 caps), 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 62 caps) co-captain, 9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 78 caps), 1 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap), 2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 94 caps) co-captain, 3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 14 caps), 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 23 caps), 5 George Kruis (Saracens, 26 caps), 6 Brad Shields (Wasps, 3 caps), 7 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 6 caps), 8 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 5 caps).

Finishers
16 Jamie George (Saracens, 29 caps), 17 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps), 18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 12 caps), 19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 7 caps), 20 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 65 caps), 21 Danny Care (Harlequins, 82 caps), 22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 48 caps), 23 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 27 caps).

New Zealand team v England
There is a lot caps and experience here. It’s going to be a tough day at Twickenham on Saturday! There are tickets available on RFU website, buy them and join us at the VU Clubhouse for match day hospitality
The matchday 23 is as follows (with Test caps in brackets):
1. Karl Tu'inukuafe (10) 2. Codie Taylor (39) 3. Owen Franks (104) 4. Samuel Whitelock (106) 5. Brodie Retallick (72) 6. Liam Squire (21) 7. Ardie Savea (32) 8. Kieran Read – captain (115) 9. Aaron Smith (80) 10. Beauden Barrett (70) 11. Rieko Ioane (21) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (50) 13. Jack Goodhue (5) 14. Ben Smith (74) 15. Damian McKenzie (20) 16. Dane Coles (57) 17. Ofa Tuungafasi (23) 18. Nepo Laulala (14) 19. Scott Barrett (26) 20. Matt Todd (15) 21. TJ Perenara (52) 22. Richie Mo'unga (5) 23. Ryan Crotty (42)

Join Lee Mears, Jeff Wilson & I at the VU Clubhouse for an informal match day experience to remember! Book your spot at https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-hospitality/old-mutual-wealth-series-2018-england-v-new-zealand  

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England have named a line up that has the strength in depth and firepower to take on South Africa on Saturday and win at Twickenham. 

England starting XV
15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 21 caps)
14 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 26 caps)
13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 13 caps)
12 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors, 13 caps)
11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 37 caps)
10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 61 caps) co-captain
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 77 caps)  
 
1 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps)
2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 93 caps) co-captain
3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 13 caps)
4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 22 caps)
5 George Kruis (Saracens, 25 caps)
6 Brad Shields (Wasps, 2 caps)
7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 4 caps)
8 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 4 caps)
 
Finishers
16 Jamie George (Saracens, 28 caps)
17 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 11 caps)
19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 6 caps) 
20 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
21 Danny Care (Harlequins, 81 caps)
22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 47 caps)
23 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 26 caps)