VU Ltd Logo

Uncategorised

...

During my recce in Japan, I took some time out to visit Okinawa Island. The island is the centre of the former Ryukyu Kingdom and is the largest and most populous island in the Okinawa Prefecture. Here I found a beautiful, tropical paradise of beaches and jungles, all within easy reach of mainland Japan.  There are plenty of luxury beach resorts to choose from and the seas are home to stunning coral reefs, rich in marine wildlife which meant that I was able to enjoy some fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving.

Tourist attractions include Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium which was at one time the world's largest aquarium, Century Beach, Pineapple Park, the Orion Beer Factory and Hiji Falls. In recent years, the island has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists and it is easy to see why.

Whether you’re looking for an expedition into the jungle, a place to laze on the beach during your time in Japan, or just a simple appreciation of this stunning island, then Okinawa is definitely worth a trip. Included in my Japan package options is a 5 night stay at the idyllic 5 star Busena Terrace Beach Resort and spa. A contemporary island oasis offering complete restoration and relaxation.  The perfect place to unwind amidst the raucous excitement of the tournament!
 
For more information visit https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-hospitality/japan-2019-ground-packages-only

...

Well that’s Cyclothon 2018 done and dusted and what a truly fantastic day it was!  The event always seems to be blessed with good weather and apart from some slight drizzle during the prize giving, this years was no exception.  I sounded the klaxon at 0730 and then we were off for a gruelling twelve hour stint on the track. In between laps there was much hilarity to be had, all day food, complimentary massages and of course plenty of rugby banter to see us through. As much as it pains me to say this, I have to hand it to the Dragons who beat us Bulldogs yet again! Maybe next year will be our year…
 
We welcomed a total of twenty-two teams and over two hundred people took part. After a long and hard won battle, the reigning champions Sumo Digital took the winning title including the Games Aid cup home once again.  One up from last year in second place came Darke & Taylor who also won the HQR Cup and in third place came Spike-T, a feat made all the more amazing due to them being a father and son team of just three.
 
Huge congratulations to Queen of the Hill and the Fastest Female Lorna Bowler. To King of the Hill, Paul McHugh and Fastest Male Andrew Wynn.
 
Massive thank you also goes to our brilliant Commentator Anthony McCrossan and to all our sponsors: Swerve, Sega, Schwalbe, Scimitar and Furniture Village.  We thank you enormously for your continued support.
 
Save the Date: Thursday 5th September – Cyclothon 2019.
 
See you next year!

...

Last year I hopped on a plane to Japan to do a recce ahead of the upcoming World Cup next year. What a fascinating country. Tokyo is a huge, dazzling metropolis which juxtaposes the old and the new with neon sky scrapers nestled alongside historic temples. I spent a week sampling the delights of many luxury hotels not to mention bars and restaurants, all in the name of research for the VU Japan Rugby Tour packages of course!

A short flight from Tokyo is Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture comprising more than 150 islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan's mainland. It's known for its tropical climate, beautiful beaches and coral reefs which offer amazing diving opportunities. It was the perfect spot to unwind after the bustling throngs of the capital.

After that I travelled back to the mainland and took a trip to Kyoto which is famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. Here I sampled traditional Kaiseki dining, geisha entertainers and stayed in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese guest house.

As a result of my fascinating visit to this diverse country, I have tailored an array of Japan 2019 itineraries to suit many a budget and we are well positioned to put entirely bespoke trips in place. We have access to hotels, ground transportation, exclusive dinners with Rugby Legends, excursions and Japanese/English speaking hosts & tour guides that will ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the top tourist attractions and excursions available in each of the match stadium locations so watch this space for more info…

If you have you been successful in the ticket ballot and are you looking for a stress free experience to witness the biggest Rugby tournament when it rolls into Japan next year? Then VU has a number solutions for you. We have standard options of weekend or 2/3 night packages around the game days, or if you prefer, you can contact us for a bespoke proposal. We have access to hotels, ground transportation, exclusive dinners with Rugby Legends, excursions and Japanese/English speaking hosts & Tour guides that will ensure a smooth and memorable holiday of a lifetime. For more information visit https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-h…/japan-2019-ground-packages-only

Come and join me for the ultimate rugby tournament and the holiday of a lifetime!

...

What a time to be a sports fan!  Could this summer get any better??  The Tour de France has just started, Wimbledon is on and goodness me whether you are in to football, you cannot help but get swept away by football’s coming home!
There are hours of glorious sports to watch on TV, to watch on large screens in the middle of town centres, pubs, friends living rooms and best of all live.  There is something quite euphoric about the shared passion, respect and pure enjoyment that comes from watching sport together.  We are nervous together, happy together, anxious together, excited together, disappointed together and best of all delighted together.  And it is all brilliant.
I have been thinking about the different ways we all enjoy sport recently.  Many of us have been to our children’s sports days to watch them participate and do their bests.  It’s fantastic if it’s your kid that wins, but it isn’t just that.  We want them to start to love sport in whatever form that takes.  Of course, to take part and win but also to just to have a go and be part of something.
One of the reason my team and I founded the Cyclothon bike relay challenge in Brands Hatch was because I wanted to create an event that was a serious sporting challenge but at the same time, inclusive and open to all.  We welcome teams made up of determined, excellent cyclists who compete to win, but we also welcome teams who maybe want to raise money for their chosen charities or are doing a work day out with their staff and want everyone to feel that they can take part and have fun. And we welcome people who, like me, want to watch from the side lines and cheer them on!
This summer’s fabulous sporting line up is preventing me from getting out to train for the Cyclothon but I don’t care as I won’t be judged!   I am absolutely loving being a sports fan right now.  To everyone out there having a go and to everyone out there cheering them on, I say good luck…..and I wish just a bit of extra luck for Gareth Southgate and the boys this week.

And of course if you want to be there for the Semi-Final and or Final in Moscow, contact us for a bespoke package!

...

Finally the Truants website is fully updated and having successfully completed the hardest Truant ride ever in India with temperatures over 90°F (32°C) and humidity as high as 96%  at times, I'm so pleased to let you know that our hard work paid off and we managed to smash our target and raised £605,479 to share equally between the three children's charities: Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust and Childline.
 
This wouldn't have been possible were it not for your continued support and generous donations made throughout the year,  so a huge thank you from me personally, all our Truants, and the charities and kids we are helping.
 
You can see our blistering experience in India via our Truants website:
http://thetruantsuk.com/home/truants-india/
 
To date the Truants have cycled in Egypt, Cuba, Morocco, Cambodia and Mexico, so this was the sixth and most certainly the toughest ride to date l but I guess we are getting better with practice despite high average weight and age and generally low fitness levels. There were 35 men and 6 ladies on this, and included six fine Rookies. The money raised on this ride takes our Total given to our children’s charities –  Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust and ChildLine up to £2,899,687. EVERY PENNY of cost is paid by the Truants, every penny you give us goes DIRECT to Nordoff Robbins to be distributed.
 
And it doesn't stop there. In June this year, the Heavy Metal Truants set off on their annual ride to Download Festival. We aim to raise over £110,000 which will take our Total Donated to over £3MILLION!! Not only are the riders donning lycra, but there will also be the Monster Rock Auction and raffle to aid them. Keep an eye out for more info soon on www.heavymetaltruants.com

...

How do you like to spend your time after training? 
Relaxing watching tv, dj-ing, eating, sleeping, fake tanning and combing my hair 
 
If you were stranded on a desert island – who would be the worst player (past or present) to be stranded with?
I think most people would say Austin Healy because he can be a bit annoying or even Haskell because of his below par banter but I think they would both keep me thoroughly entertained so I would have to say my doppleganger Ugo Monye because no Island is big enough for two good looking brothers

Favourite memory of Charlie Hodgson
Has to be him riding around Brands Hatch crossing the line to win the Nations Cup for us….. oh rugby memory sorry, …. then it’s watching him score 44 points v Romania on his England  debut in 2001 
 
When you were young did you have a favourite role model?
Phill Bennet and Gareth Edwards were the first rugby players I looked up to as a schoolboy. The Welsh where very good in the 70’s boyo
 
What is your earliest rugby memory?
Apart from picking up a rugby ball at 11 years old for the first time, I would have to say watching rugby special in a dim tv room in the basement of Berners house at Woolverstone Hall boarding school and thinking: “someday, I’ll be on that….”
 
What is your favourite meal?
Anything oriental fusion with lots of spice, like salt & pepper ribs ..yum I’m salivating.
 
What type of books do you like to read?
I read anything I can learn from, self-help stuff to understand the mind, autobiographies, biographies. Just read an interesting book about Mohammed Ali. Currently reading The inner game of Tennis by Timothy Galloway. A must read for any future rugby player. Deals with the learning process and how we enter that zone place where rugby players who are remembered have entered. Love audio books in the car. They help to calm focus and quieten the mind.

Dream holiday destination?
That’s easy –  Ibiza all day baby.  The most hedonistic place I’ve ever visited. Thank you Sean Edwards for taking me there in 1995 with M People. Can’t beat dj-ing at a party in Essvive then watching a Load of Wasps players bowl in. Awesome.
 
If you could trade places with another person for a week, famous or not famous – who would it be?
Floyd Mayweather I’d beat people up all week, live the life then I would bacs transfer 1 billion dollars into Martin Offiah’s Barclays account just before my week ended. That way he couldn’t get it back when he was conscious again. Had a boxing match once I floored Bath England and Lions fullback Matt Perry. Mark Regan was not happy let me tell ya LOL 
 
What is your worst rugby injury?
Shoulder dislocation. I cried like a baby very painful. Tackling was not for me or rucking mauling anything other than scoring tries you can keep.
 
What is your most memorable match that you have played in?
Scoring 10 tries in a game for Wigan and a Hatrick for the Baa Baa’s on the 1987 Easter tour in Wales has to be up there and length of the field try at Wembley. Did I mention I have a statue outside Wembley for that one? lol 
 
What would be your chosen superpower?
To be able to get people to do whatever I want them to do.
When you think about it mind control is the only super power worth having really.  No need to fly or punch people or have X-ray vision, that’s just not necessary. Leave me alone, hit him, come here, lay down, give me all your cash, go to the shop, give me the ball, I’m going left you go right, don’t tackle me let me score. etc etc etc Lol simples
 
 

...

I am reflecting on another fantastic week at MIPIM.  13-16th March once again saw influential property people gather from across the world in Cannes to network, do business and discuss the important factors determining property development.  Now I am not in the property business, but I am in the event business and were asked to organise for the second year running, the Build to Rent Lunch in conjunction with the London Chamber of Commerce.  Lunch Partners Cast, Turley, Interserve and Get Living, together with many senior players within the property sector, lunched at the wonderful 2 Michelin Star la Palme D’Or Restaurant.
 
Champagne, exquisite food and a very lively debate between Councillor Darren Rodwell of Barking and Dagenham, Richard Cowell of Birmingham City Council and Paul Beardmore of Manchester City Council, was led by Colin Stanbridge of London Chamber of Commerce.  It was a fascinating and very thought-provoking discussion and one of the most talked about MIPIM highlights.
 
MIPIM week is wonderful with so much going on and lots of business being done.  I was struck again that in a world where so much work is done online and technology has enabled us to be so well connected, but that nothing can replace a face to face meet. Trust is built face to face, ideas are shared face to face, more connections are made, more experiences shared and more relationships built.  For the 2019 I will be taking a bigger team out with me to organise events during this week.  Should you wish us to organise an event for you next year, do get in touch.  Let us take the headache away, allowing you to focus on what is important.  With venues in Cannes already taking bookings for next year, do give me a call soon to discuss any event ideas.
 

...

England team to face Scotland is looking very strong and stable with only change being Nathan Hughes coming in for the injured Sam Simmonds and Joe Marler on the bench after doing “Time”. I am looking forward to a very hostile Murrayfield and counting on the England forwards to soften up the Scotland pack, if we can achieve dominance upfront, which on paper we should, then an England victory is predicted. But beware of the “auld ” enemy, if they get their tails up then a tough afternoon is in store as they have a back line capable of causing some serious damage! We have had one weekend package come back for this game based at the luxurious Principal Hotel, if interested email sales@vultd.co.uk See you up there for a beer or two!

Team to play Scotland
 
Starting 15
15 Mike Brown (Harlequins 66 caps)
14 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby 30 caps)
13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby 37 caps)
12 Owen Farrell (Saracens 55 caps)
11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers 31 caps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers 42 caps)
9 Danny Care (Harlequins 78 caps)
 
1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens 46 caps)
2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints 91 caps)
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers 79 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps 49 caps)
5 Maro Itoje (Saracens 16 caps)
6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints 63 caps)
7 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins 61 caps)
8 Nathan Hughes (Wasps 12 caps)
 
Finishers
16 Jamie George (Saracens 22 caps)
17 Joe Marler (Harlequins 53 caps)
18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs 7 caps)
19 George Kruis (Saracens 23 caps)
20 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby 5 caps)
21 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens 28 caps)
22 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors 10 caps)
23 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs 25 caps)

 

...

I do love our Clubhouse! I know I shouldn’t say this about my own venue…but really, the house is so much fun. It’s always good being back in the Clubhouse at the beginning of the year. Seeing our friends, new clients and our brilliant team of staff.  We arrive, set up, switch the heating on, get the food prepped, then the first guests arrive and the party starts. Brilliant!
Last Saturday for the England v Wales match, we were joined by old and new rugby boys. It was great to meet Jack Clifford who popped in when the doors opened. Old friend Mark Cueto arrived and then Mouritz Botha also joined us to chat to everyone and have photos taken. My co-host & old team mate Lee Mears was with us for much of the day and it’s always good seeing him.  He was with us in Rome last weekend and had only just recovered….    To give us a bit of Welsh balance, Alix Popham and family arrived to spend the day and explain why he believed Wales was the stronger side and definitely going to win. (You owe me a tenner Alix!)
 
After a brilliant match…well for England anyway… it was back to the Clubhouse to warm up with port, hot pies, cheeses and our open bar. Post-match we were joined by James Haskell and Rhys Priestland.  Great boys with great stories to share.
 
So to all the rugby boys who came to the Clubhouse, to our friends and clients, to England for winning – thanks for another great day!
 

...

So Victor always talks about “being there live” and last weekend I got it.
 
Last week, I was invited to come to Rome as part of the VU trip to watch the start of the Six Nations Championships 2018.  I was invited to sample the trip as a punter, I was to experience it “live”
 
It started with the people we met.  Many of us all flew out together and so the memories began.  Everyone with us were just a brilliant bunch – they were sociable, funny, considerate, generous and fun.  Naturally you can make this travel arrangements by oneself, but that would mean missing out on this special part of the trip: meeting these fabulous people.  For me it was my highlight No.1.
 
Highlight No. 2 was the first night.  After a very jolly drinks reception organised by Victor with a surprise visit from former Italy rugby player Marco Bortolami, some 15 of us headed off to have dinner together.  What a special night where we sampled the most unbelievably amazing food.
 
Travel does broaden the mind and feed the soul. Rome does this so well.  Every corner offers a view, something to marvel at and a chance to imagine a different time.  We made the most of our few days, as did everyone else.  Some visited the Vatican, others the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the walking tours, others opted to watch the other games in the hotel and we came together to share our day and experiences in the evening.
 
Sunday saw us come together again to watch the match.  On our way to the stadium we somehow got together with England coach and even enjoy a police escort for part of the way!  Lee Mears gave an hilarious running commentary all the way there.  It’s a brilliant stadium: the food, the beers, the atmosphere were all fantastic and combined with an England win – another marvellous highlight.
 
I was sad to have the weekend come to an end.  We all got on the bus slightly tired and still slightly drunk on all good things the past few days had given us.
 
“Being there Live” means creating memories.  Thank you Victor….. I totally get it now.

...

On Wednesday evening at 6.30pm, the doors of the Great Room at Grosvenor House flew open to welcome guests and friends of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and quite a lot of rugby players.  It was the start of the 23rd Six Nations Rugby Championship Dinner and honour to top points scoring rugby champion, Charlie Hodgson.
 
The gold and glitter sparkled as celebrity guests including Amber Davies, Alex Bowen, Olivia Buckland and Sam Thompson made their way to the champagne reception along with a golden list of past and present rugby greats. Danny Care, Chris Robshaw, Andy Gomarsall, Martin Offiah, Ugo Monye and Brad Barritt were amongst some 70 players who pitched up to support Charlie.
 
David Flatman our host took to the stage of gold stars to thank our sponsors O2, Deezer and Crabbies and kick off the fun.  There were games, there was fine food, there was wine and there was so much noise and laughter in the room.
 
After dinner ‘Flats’ asked Charlie Hodgson, Richard Wigglesworth, Brian Redpath, Danny Care and Schalk Brits (he of the incredible golden smile!) to join him on stage.  This was part of the evening where Charlie’s old colleagues could mercilessly make fun of him and share some awful and embarrassing truths of Charlie’s career.  Instead of finding dirt, they just found nuggets of gold……Charlie really is just the nicest, most well-respected guy!
 
The absolutely tremendous Irish band Academic led the musical entertainment with a brilliant performance.  Thanks so much for flying over to be with us!
 
The generosity of all our guests on Wednesday night will fund music therapy for so many people this coming year.  To all our guests – your gifts will transform lives.
 
And so, the night drew to a close on a high as Tony Hadley and band performed.  He sang from the heart, belted out some true favourites, spoke about Nordoff and what did he end the night on? – yes, it was GOLD!

...

As we enter into the final stages of planning for the Nordoff Robbins Six Nations Dinner, I am reflecting again on the history of this dinner, why I got involved and why I am as passionate about this charity as I ever was.

The idea for the dinner came some 22 years ago when I met Willie Robertson, who at the time was Vice Chair of the charity.  We wanted to raise money and awareness for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and pay tribute to a rugby player.  At the time, I was also playing rugby for Bath and England.  Over the years, we have honoured so many true rugby legends including Jason Leonard, Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio and Chris Robshaw.  It has been a privilege to honour these players.

Fundraising for Nordoff Robbins remains one of my main goals both personally and through my business at VU Ltd.  I have worked with and fundraised for so many charities over the years, but this is the only charity that I work with everyyear.  I think it is because of the people.  The people at Nordoff are so friendly, so committed, so professional and I consider many of them my friends.  

I visited the Nordoff Robbins Music Centre a few years ago and watched a session with children.  One cannot help be moved by witnessing their extraordinary work.  It is very real and the difference they make is remarkable.  The therapy brings joy, calm, development and progress for the children and genuine support for the parents.  

I was not blessed with the gift and ability to play music. I did dabble in the saxophone until my teacher asked me to stop!  But it has not stopped my appreciation and love for this art.  Music really does touch the soul.

I feel that through this dinner and through my other fundraising endeavours such as the Truants Bike Ride, we can make a tangible difference.  Please join me.

...

As we enter into the final stages of planning for the Nordoff Robbins Six Nations Dinner, I am reflecting again on the history of this dinner, why I got involved and why I am as passionate about this charity as I ever was.
 
The idea for the dinner came some 22 years ago when I met Willie Robertson, who at the time was Vice Chair of the charity.  We wanted to raise money and awareness for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and pay tribute to a rugby player.  At the time, I was also playing rugby for Bath and England.  Over the years, we have honoured so many true rugby legends including Jason Leonard, Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio and Chris Robshaw.  It has been a privilege to honour these players.
 
Fundraising for Nordoff Robbins remains one of my main goals both personally and through my business at VU Ltd.  I have worked with and fundraised for so many charities over the years, but this is the only charity that I work with every year.  I think it is because of the people.  The people at Nordoff are so friendly, so committed, so professional and I consider many of them my friends. 
 
I visited the Nordoff Robbins Music Centre a few years ago and watched a session with children.  One cannot help be moved by witnessing their extraordinary work.  It is very real and the difference they make is remarkable.  The therapy brings joy, calm, development and progress for the children and genuine support for the parents. 
 
I was not blessed with the gift and ability to play music. I did dabble in the saxophone until my teacher asked me to stop!  But it has not stopped my appreciation and love for this art.  Music really does touch the soul.
 
I feel that through this dinner and through my other fundraising endeavours such as the Truants Bike Ride, we can make a tangible difference.  Please join me.

...

Dawn of ride day 2, the Western Ghats, Kerala. The guides pass down the line of tents waking us up as we grumble and stumble.  We need to break the back of it before the heat peaks. We didn’t. We load water and salts into us and our bags and bottles, we scoff toast or sloppy curry and do our tai-chi stretches in the clearing in the jungle next to the big brown river. Yesterday was fun, far enough to hurt plenty, but not too far.  Today is too far and the topo-map looks a bit like a heart attack with ups and downs turning into jags turning to a long flat line.  Except that, when we rode it, we found that the jagged bit of the heart attack lasted longer than the flat-line. No one died. I thought I might.

We ground up the long, long hill in the noon-day sun they said we’d avoid, getting to 1:1 on the gears taking the uphill bend that promised an end to it, only to find it was the same again. Hearts pounding, poorly trained knees screaming, temperatures off the scale, sweat pouring and muscles promising cramp forever.  Rehydrate! Not possible, going too slow. Not balancing, teetering. Some of us were on that hill for damned nearly an hour. But then a briefly less steep bit and the joys of 1:4 and measurable progress, slurping and pep-talking, not using any words I could write here apart from the ‘you’ in the middle of the others. And then back up to 1:1 and the new ridge-line target and the so, so slow grind continues. And at the very top a glance all the way back and is that Bazza just starting that roasting tarmac hill, 30 minutes or more behind me? Poor sod.

We rode 96 kilometres that day and ascended 1600 metres overall, for there were a few other hills they didn’t really explain about in the briefing, but never mind that, it’s done, the beer in the pool is cool and we’re talking about the stunning opening 20k through the rubber plantations and the gentle inclines along the recently repaired with rough cemented gravel roads through the wet jungle, with the little hamlets full of smiling Keralans and the occasional Exocet of a fully laden bus on the wrong side of the road and the endless friendly beeps as every scooter warns you it’ up your arse, just as the tipper truck booms out its warning that it’s in your face. And between the run-down hamlets the houses of all sorts, just tucked into the jungle, including quite a few bigger and flasher than anything you’d see at Wentworth.  Well almost – and even more incongruous.

It’s Dubai money you see.  Kerala works because millions of its (very slim and beautiful) people are away building the sheiks dream in the desert and sending their earnings home, so that the poor don’t need to beg as they do in the rest of India, they just smile and practice their schoolboy English on us and stare at our weightier men as a circus crowd might stare at the painted lady. We love the irony of the world’s only democratically elected communist provincial government living off the sheiks; if only all the world could redistribute a bit of its wealth so efficiently. Mind you we are doing our bit.  You too dear sponsor, thank you. Rest assured we earned your money for the children, we earned it in sweat and bloody-minded determination to overcome our manifest lake of cycling talent or practice. 

We landed at 4 at Cochin and spent the last hours of night chatting on the roof of the spectacularly out-dated Lotus 8 motel, going straight to breakfast and then bed and then lunch and then bike-fitting and a warm up ride to the golf-course at the end of the runway, as flat and noisy as dear Mid-Surrey, but no golf for us – we’re straight back to prep for the first day in the saddle while eating scary looking food and using a bit of beer to – for the carbs you understand – and avoiding ice and salads and so keeping our innards in order. 

We rose at 0600 and were on the road at 0700, cycling down the little track out of the airport suburb and out into real India weaving our way through the manic traffic to a roadside temple, where the jingle jangle music blared and the holy man in his dhoti skirt and saffron powdered hairy chest blessed all 44 of us with a bindi and a garland of flowers before we sending us off into the main-road maelstrom. We turned off as soon as, down a canal-side track that gave us the flat and straight our ageing legs love, though with a road surface that had us all weaving and juddering and shouting warnings of potholes to those behind. When you took your eye off the tarmac ahead though, the scenery was stunning, rice paddies and jungle giving way to each other in turn. We were approaching the hills they call the Western Ghats.

The day got hotter, the humidity rose with it, we sweated buckets, wished we’d done more training, helped those who fell or broke down and covered our first day 60k ride in decent order, in 10k stretches, broken by brief rehydration stops and to let our Imperial Guard catch up with our cavalry.  We got to the eco-camp in early afternoon to rest and catch up and sleep off the jet-lag and prep for the day from hell that was to come.

But we did that bastard hill, and all the others and we beat that heat and found an hour to visit a wee pre-primary school and spread the Truant joy and stationary before we climbed back on the now hated saddles and ground our butts through those 1600 metres of climb and then revelled in the all too brief free-wheel down into the valleys that followed, before eventually, those 96k’s later, we reached our hotel with a pool and delighted in having finished the hardest of all the Truants cycling days ever. The very hardest. And so to bed, with just one more day to go before the big relax. 

We rise at our normal way-too-early hour, but this time catch a boat to our start line, where the bikes lie waiting for us, for we are in the Keralan lagoons now and some places bikes can’t go. But that pleasure of some strangers ancient engine doing the work soon passes and it’s back to our own ancient engines, sore and cranky and grinding our gears through the k’s and the steadily increasing chaos of subsistence farmland turning into city suburbs, with sometimes 5 vehicles to a 2 way road – in transection it might be bike: moped: overtaking tuk-tuk: truck coming the other way: just passing the packed bus. Madness, but with not one drop of road rage – these folk are amazing and admirable it seemed to us. If the pot-holes don’t get you the busses will, a local said.  She was wrong but only by inches. 

And then on to our grandstand finish and a huge pool by the beach and a party like no other.  Villa 20 will long remain in our memories as one of the great finishing celebrations.  We did the miles, we bore the butt pain and the chafe, we raised well on the way to £600k and we all survived.  Just.  Job done, where’s next in 2019?

So far we have raised over £535,000 so please help us get to our target of £600,000 for the kids charities by going to https://race-nation.com/sponsor/e/91936 

To date the Truants have cycled in Egypt, Cuba, Morocco, Cambodia and Mexico, so this was the sixth and most certainly the toughest ride to date l but i guess we are getting better with practice despite high average weight and age and generally low fitness levels. There were 35 men and 6 ladies on this, and included six fine Rookies. The total raised on this ride will be added to the £2,275,290 already given to our children’s charities –  Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust and ChildLine. Every penny of cost is paid by the Truants , every penny you give us goes DIRECT to Nordoff Robbins to be distributed.

...

I am on a stop-over in Dubai en route to the Truants India Bike Ride 2017 which is raising funds for Nordoff-Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust & ChildLine

“It will be 2 years since the Truants cycled our way through Mexico and broke the £2m barrier in total monies raised for our Children’s Charities. Just when we thought it could not get any harder than the heat of Mexico, the deserts of Morocco ,the jungle of Cambodia or the mosquito infested Nile, the ante has been raised! We a…re going to India for our sixth charity ride and this will have all of the above, along with 100% humidity. For many of us, cycling these 120 miles in 48 hours in dust and heat will be a great achievement!
However, insane we aren't, but crazy we are in order to raise as much as possible for the kids and the target we hope to achieve with our 42 riders is £500,000. So we are all making a huge effort and hope you will support us.

We are at £480,000 so far.Big thanks to all those who have supported us to date.

We still have some way to go so please donate at https://race-nation.com/sponsor/e/91936

...

The weather gods looked down fondly on Cyclothon UK 2016, as the teams arrived on site at 6.am.  The sun was coming up, there was a little mist hanging in the air and there sense of anticipation and excitement – it was set to be another great day.
The 12 hour teams arrived early this year, keen to set up their garages, lay out their energy packs, arrange their chairs and pump their tyres.  There was lycra as far as the eyes could see and much lunging and stretching.
Bristol Bike Centre also arrived early and were already fixing bikes before they barely had a chance to get their spanners out of the van.

Massage Therapists arranged beds, oils and towels and some cyclists even found the need to indulge in a little leg massage before their bottoms went onto the saddle for the first laps.
Team Bulldogs and Team Jocks eyed each other for the coveted Home Nations Cyclothon Trophy…..the cup which has never been won by the Bulldogs! (and nor did they win it this year!)

Matt Payne was the MC and he led the teams into a briefing before the riders went on to the track.  DB Max ensured that each rider had a chip measuring every lap, and the VU Ltd staff ensured that all riders were properly fed and watered.
The day got off to a great start.  Riders hit the track with much enthusiasm enjoying the sun and the team spirit.  The rugby boys including Lee Mears, Duncan Bell and Victor Ubogu spent a good few hours contemplating why they hadn’t done any training and spent a good few sessions with the massage therapists.  Victor was one of the only 2 riders to have minor fall.  Luckily the photographer was there to capture it all…..

The team from J9 Foundation quickly took the lead hotly followed by Team Schwalbe, one of our sponsors, in the 12 hour challenge.  The 8 hour challenge got underway as did the battle between Old Rubiconians and Team Lamex Foods.  They stayed neck and neck until the very end.  It was great to have the Matt Hampson Foundation guys back, who once again displayed such strength and endurance.

The afternoon saw the wind pick up and leg cramp for some of the riders.  Energy levels were starting to weaken when, like of breath of fresh air and big dose of inspiration, Double Silver Olympic Swimmer Jazz Carlin arrived to hang out with the riders and spur them on.  Jazz had only just recently returned from Rio and we were enormously grateful for her time. Thank you Jazz!

Many of the teams raised money for their chosen charities including Adbac and Serve Ladies.  The Cyclothon UK has helped raise some £250k since the event started in 2011.  It is an impressive effort from everyone.
The day ended with Old Rubiconian winning the 8 Hour Challenge by a whisper and J9 Foundation winning the 12 hour race just slightly ahead of Schwalbe. Our congratulations to Matt Ellis from Team Willis Towers Watson Stanley; to Anjela Ubogu from Team Swerve Ladies for their fastest lap wins and to Shaun Reed from Team Schwalbe for being King of the Hill.  And many congratulations to all the riders who participated and made it another awesome day.
 
Cyclothon 2017 is booked for Thursday 7th September at Brands Hatch.  Secure your team by booking here…. https://vultd.co.uk/cycling-events/cyclothon-uk-2017-brands-hatch
 

...

OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST JAZZ CARLIN TO ATTEND UK CYCLOTHON 2016
 
Double Silver Olympic medallist Jazz Carlin announced today that she will attend the annual Cyclothon UK, taking place on Thursday 8th September 2016 at Brands Hatch, Kent.

Cyclothon UK, is a 12 hour team endurance cycling race at Brands Hatch circuit where teams race, testing their stamina and also raising money for their chosen charities. The event also challenges former rugby internationals to test their fitness against rival nations for the coveted Home Nations Challenge Trophy. Victor Ubogu, organiser of the event, will also be joined by former rugby colleagues including Lee Mears and Shaun Perry.

“We are delighted to welcome Jazz Carlin to this year’s event.  We were cheering her on in Rio and are so pleased for her and her incredible success.  It is very good of her to take time out of her extremely busy schedule to cheer on the cyclists and support their sporting endeavours” Victor Ubogu said.

Cyclothon UK was launched in 2011 by sports tours and corporate hospitality company VU Limited.  To date it has raised over £250,000.  It is a rare opportunity to cycle on the legendary Grand Prix circuit, hosts of the London 2012 Paralympic cycling.

For more details visit www.vultd.co.uk

...

England team to face Italy

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 28 caps)
2 Dylan Hartley (captain, Northampton Saints, 67 caps)
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 57 caps)
4 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 43 caps)
5 George Kruis (Saracens, 11 caps)
6 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, 44 caps)
7 James Haskell (Wasps, 63 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (vice captain, Saracens, 22 caps)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 53 caps)
10 George Ford (Bath Rugby, 18 caps)
11 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 11 caps)
12 Owen Farrell (vice captain, Saracens, 36 caps)
13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 17 caps)
14 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 16 caps)
15 Mike Brown (vice captain, Harlequins, 44 caps)
Replacements
16 Jamie George (Saracens, 4 caps)
17 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 38 caps)
18 Paul Hill (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
19 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 29 caps)
20 Maro Itoje (Saracens, uncapped)
21 Jack Clifford (Harlequins, 1 cap)
22 Danny Care (Harlequins, 54 caps)
23 Alex Goode (Saracens, 19 caps)

If you have missed out on the Rome match then join us in Paris for the final weekend of the 6 nations championship. Book online now at https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-hospitality/rbs-6-nations-2016-rugby-tickets-hospitality-travel/france-v-england-2016-stade-de-france-rugby-hospitality

Call our Sales team on 01225 788880 or email sales@vultd.co.uk

...

England have named an experienced squad for the forthcoming Calcutta Cup this weekend.

England match-day 23 to face Scotland 

15. Mike Brown (vice captain, Harlequins, 43 caps) 

14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 15 caps)

13. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 16 caps)

12. Owen Farrell (vice captain, Saracens, 35 caps)

11. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps)

10. George Ford (Bath Rugby, 17 caps)

9. Danny Care (Harlequins, 53 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 37 caps)

2. Dylan Hartley (captain, Northampton Saints, 66 caps)

3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 56 caps)

4. Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 28 caps)

5. George Kruis (Saracens, 10 caps)

6. Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, 43 caps)

7. James Haskell (Wasps, 62 caps)

8. Billy Vunipola (vice captain, Saracens, 21 caps)

 

Replacements

16. Jamie George (Saracens, 3 caps)

17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 27 caps) 

18. Paul Hill (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 42 caps)

20. Jack Clifford (Harlequins, uncapped)

21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps)

22. Alex Goode (Saracens, 19 caps)

23. Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby, uncapped)

Be there to support England or Scotland with VU this weekend. Also packages still available for next weekend's visit to Rome. call our Sales team on 01225 788880 for some last minute packages or book online now at https://vultd.co.uk/rugby-hospitality/rbs-6-nations-2016-rugby-tickets-hospitality-travel/italy-v-england-2016-twickenham-rugby-hospitality  

...

After weeks of speculation, Eddie Jones and his new coaching team have put us all out of our misery and announced the 33 man squad for the forthcoming 6 Nations tournament. With so many new faces joining the squad and some being brought back into the fold, it'll be interesting to see if this will change England's fortunes, let's be honest, after the RWC it can't really get any worse – can it?

Forwards
Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks) 
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins) 
Jamie George (Saracens) 
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 
James Haskell (Wasps)
Paul Hill (Northampton Saints)  
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby) *injury replacement for Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs)  
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins) 
Matt Mullan (Wasps) 
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens) 
Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 

Backs
Chris Ashton (Saracens) 
Mike Brown (Harlequins) 
Danny Care (Harlequins) 
Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) 
Owen Farrell (Saracens) 
George Ford (Bath Rugby) 
Alex Goode (Saracens) 
Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) *injury replacement for Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) 
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins) 
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) 

...

At a time of festive cheer and giving, VU Limited are thrilled to announce that Victor Ubogu has achieved the '1 in 5' goal he set himself in 2011 – no, not just achieved it, but smashed his quest to raise £1,000,000 over 5 years through various fundraising efforts.

A staggering £1.2 million has been raised and donated to a variety of amazing causes, mainly assisting young people through times of suffering and ill health. Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust, Childline, Afrikids, Walking with the Wounded, Wooden Spoon, Sparks, Abigail's Footsteps, Prince's Trust, Barnardo's and the RFU's Injured Players Foundation are among those who've benefitted from VU Ltd's fundraising dinners and events and Victor's personal sweat and tears as he cycles hundreds of miles in far flung places.

We are deeply conscious that this money could not have been raised without the support of our kind and generous friends and guests. We know you dig deep time and time again, in addition to your endless contributions outside of VU. Your offers of prizes, bids in the auction, hours of standing with your hands on your head or tail, and direct donations form this gift we hope to continue to give. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Although the goal has been achieved, this does in no way mean the game is over. VU Limited pledges to continue the effort as long and as diligently as we can. On January 20th 2016, we host the 21st Nordoff Robbins Rugby Dinner at Grosvenor House where we look forward to raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to help people through the aid of music therapy. We look forward to seeing you there. Meanwhile, we send our best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy Christmas and prosperous 2016, when we hope to continue changing lives together.

...

We caught up with Waisale Serevi at our Welcome Dinner in Dubai and also at the tournament. See what Serevi had to say. Waisale Serevi  is a former Fijian rugby player, and coach. Although he played fifteen-a-side rugby throughout his playing career, Serevi is most notable for his achievements in rugby sevens. He is widely considered one of the greatest rugby sevens players ever. In the 15-man game, he played for Fiji 39 times between 1989 and 2003, and scored 376 points. This included representing Fiji in the 1991, 1999, and 2003 Rugby World Cups. His representative sevens career started in 1989 when he played for Fiji at the Hong Kong tournament. With the exception of 2001, 2003 and 2004 he has played at Hong Kong every year since. Serevi has also played in the 1993, 1997, 2001, and 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens, winning the World Cup with Fiji in 1997 and 2005.

Who do you think will win the Dubai 7s?
It’s always difficult to predict who wins in 7’s. South Africa are out and they were one of the favourites. USA are playing well, Fiji are doing well when the playing gets tough they put on the pressure.
 
Who do you think will score the most tries?
I think Fiji will.
 
Who will be the stand out player of this tournament?
Tom Mitchell is playing well. Also Jerry Tuwai and Pio Tuwai from Fiji
 
What’s you’re most memorable moment in 7’s history?
Playing and winning the World Cup 7’s in 1997 and 2005 with Fiji.
 
What did you care about most when you were ten years old?
I cared about trying to get home from school quickly so I could go to rugby.
 

...

A note of our recent Truants Mexico Bike Ride 2015 by our resident scribbler, MC, auctionneer and general entertainer Tom Baigre follows below:

It’s 90 degrees under the Yucatan sun, the tarmac stretches dead straight and flat as far as the eye can see and then 20 k’s more. The sweat was dripping before a pedal was turned and 2k’s into the heat the lycra is sopping, the hands slipping and the eyes streaming sweat and sunscreen.  It’s the first morning ride of Mexico 2015 and it’s just got serious.
Rule number 1:  train thoroughly, prepare properly: broken.
Rule number 2: acclimatise fully after travelling: broken.
Rule number 3: cycle in the cool of the day: broken.
Rule number 4: no sunscreen above the cheekbones: broken. 
Rule number 5: avoid all alcohol: broken.

The Truants are on tour again. The forecast storms have gone elsewhere, leaving just the sun and the jungle and the smiling friendly Mayans. And the road, the bike, the saddle, and a butt already bitching. Up ahead the fast boys are drafting away at 30kph all slipstreamy and competitive.  Wankers.  Back here, a k behind them already, is where the thing that is Truants really happens, the slow grind on a lady’s bike with flowers on the front and a Madonna strapped on the back rack, for the once cheerful  chap from Leeds, the 28 stone Wide Load encased in a Wanker Of The Day T-shirt 3 sizes too small and holding a cenote full of wet the once hardest man in the special branch struggling just to breath let alone pedal, maybe that tough pink exterior is real and he actually is a lobster the legendary mangers and promoters and merch’ers and bankers and bean counters of rock and metal; the business leaders, property magnates, newspaper  editors, chefs and entrepreneurs all wishing they’d upgraded to somewhere, anywhere other than this road this broiling day. the clash and grind of the gears and roars of elephantine fury when confronted by the shock of a hill that’s actually just a bridge over a motorway; the anger increased by the certainty that the motorway would have us in our hotel in 20 minutes, if only we were driving on it, not cycling across it on this country lane.

the many of us who once never cycled but now do it often or even all the time as per Heavy Metal Truants of the Rock God and the ageless Hamlet powered Sim, just doing it and loving being pretty damn good at it to. the rookie girls and boys suddenly realising just how mad these ageing behemoths around them really are, and just how far almost 200k’s in three days actually is when you chuck in a tropical sun.  As we always bloody do. the vultures circling, always circling.Were they the same ones we disappointed in Morroco?Tough luck boys. I fancy your chances in 2 years though, it’s only getting ever more likely. the wives and husbands teams not seeking each other out on the road as once they did in a bar, each just head down and pedalling in silent marital harmony or strife depending on how he behaved the night before. 
and at the back the Tindleys’ and the Judge our Ancient of Days, just stayin’ alive; the Doc and Hercule herding them along like anxious collie dogs.  Baaaaa.
all interspersed by the frantic clumsy slugging on the go of sweet warm water that doesn’t quench thirst, but might just keep you from doing a HoJo flappy fish and frightening us all to death.

No-one ever boasts about how tough Truant’s is, just about the money we raise, but the Doc summed it up at the first stop, “You are all bloody mad, none of you should doing this!” Well except maybe Dave, Cooney and Stuart, and even they took to slowing their charge by adding Amandas and moustaches and underage Fullers, and Swede’s, fit bankers and even an accountant to their peloton so they didn’t have to go so fast. Mind you at least their peloton didn’t kill anyone, as Gunnar thought his had.  “All my fault”, said the gent he’d left scattered in the roadside shite. The Doc was summed by flying Swede, patched up the boy and on we went. 
The dogs bark and the caravan moves on. As on we had earlier gone from the first hotel(s) – Red Blue and Green to us but Green Blue and Red to Henk the colour-blind South African, who sent us marching all over Izamal, the wee town we had reached 14 hours after meeting at Gatwick all orange and badges and breakfast Guinness, and then behaving ourselves on the Virgin, as one should, despite fond memories of Cuba flights years ago.  And then after a bus ride too far, a quiet buffet supper of slightly challenging local food bits and bobs (beware the green sauce.  It’s so not guacamole) and WOD and HOD going to the pair(s) that had taken off their Truant’s T shirts on the plane – ridiculed and admired respectively.  After that we wandered around town eventually finding the right set of dribbly taps and dusty beds, and grateful for the wine and beer and that got us to sleep off the rest of the short jetlagged night before being  surprised by a decent breakfast, but not by the hour or two of bike setting up.
We are not easy cats to herd, especially when a dozen must accept sit-up-and-beg bikes.  The Yank got one, but when it came to it he took on our best and beat them girly-bike or no.  He won a Hero and a fine for nationalist chanting in celebration. Luke won nothing even when he fell off the straight and narrow, just as he used to, but this time getting grazes not a hangover.  James did that bot for the both of them well enough mind.

But that was long, long after we set off on day one, full of fear and hope into the sun and down that long, long hot, hot road to the first stop, just water and peanuts and fruit, the peloton doing it in 25 minutes, the Imperial rearguard in twice that poor sods.  Arriving just in time to pour gallons over their head and off we go again into the full and pitiless heat for another 20 to lunch and an hour’s rest somewhere down the road.  The support was fine, but there were casualties, HoJo’s systems shutting down for a long mo’ at lunch in the shady dusty town square, being cared for by Bill Taylor, who won a HOD for that, and a fine for his fine coiffeur as New Judge Pennington made us roar with laughter on the final eve, a fine replacement for the grand old man. But after HoJo had extended the lunch stop and the Doc had told those of us sheltering in the aircon bus us that Tindley major was too pink to continue, when some of us know he’s been too pink for decades, we ploughed on up the road, a quieter, more grimly focussed bunch, though the stops came more frequently thereafter and we got through our hardest ever Truants 72k day just, sundry casualties needing to ride the air-conditioned bus for a leg before determinedly girding their battered loins and riding through to the finish in Pisté.  Even Hojo crossed the line, brave poilu.  Vive le France and stuff Isil.
And what a line it was, just past the glorious looking Chichen Itsa Four Seasons we found the Pyramid Inn, Norman Bates’ other venture. He built it in the 60’s and god knows what happened there but it was deserted soon after, until we were sold a night x 60 odd and they got the old sheets out and cranked up the ancient plumbing.  But no matter that, or the jumbo-jet air-conditioners, the Pyramid Inn had a grand old pool and no bar, so we could ship in maybe 400 beers and drink them all in glorious knackered harmony, all getting to know each other except for Victor who ploughed up and across the deep end for 50 laps while we drank and talked about the pain and the heat of the day and the doings of the 2 years since Cambodia.  

The dinner at the huge tourist place across the road was a second uncharacteristically quiet night.  The party animals are older and proportionately fewer now and the day had been very hard. The food was challenging – though swift and clean – and the tequila did some good and what had to be done was well enough done, but while many stopped on for a bit after for a natter, we were knackered in a night-life free town so we went to bed.  The giant from the desert won WOD for pushing Big Frank into the pool, which was bloody funny until someone asked Frank if his phone was in his pocket.  No one could have taken it better, but Jason was a goner, especially as he had also broken tour-bus rule number one. The crowd bayed and the judges made sure they got their villain.  HOD was of course the saintly brown-haired A&E nurse Bill.

The next day started with a brief ride to the spectacular Mayan temples and arenas of Chichen Itsa, where we were educated in the wonders of the Mayan calendar with its 18 months of 20 days making 360 and the 5 “non days”; the children of which were sacrificed as soon as they could speak, so that they could get to the gods of the underworld to plead for good soil and harvest; along with the similar lunatic religious logic that saw the winning captain of the ‘ball game’ played in a long walled arena sacrificed so that it was the strongest man who went below to play the game against the gods down below in the same cause.  And after that fascinating stuff the ride was shorter, 53k’s they said, but still with the killer noon-day first stretch that seems now to be the Classic Tours hallmark.  With a Scot and a Saffer in charge you can only expect a bit of sadism.
Lunch was taken in the shade of a playground, tiny 10 year olds playing soccer-rounders as we arrived, the wee girls all eyes and giggles at the vast white giants in orange.  We high fived and smiled and laughed and selfied under the trees, resting and recovering and wishing the afternoon could be spent on the bus.  It wasn’t, we went on as ever we do, the casualty count rising, with Mike’s being the worst by far, Will the Doc worrying about having to send out for more clean bandages as the graze and scrape count grew. We stopped for water in the scrappy shade by a tiny turkey farm that blared out rock music and sort of recovered mid-afternoon, before we ground our heavy way on into Valladolid, through the increasingly prosperous, but still v 3rd world streets until the Town Square and the church where Kevin and Stuart H produced iced lollies for all which won them nominations for HOD, so good did they taste after another day on the Mexican road to nowhere. 

And then the highlight.  We trickled out of town, past the posh houses to the poor ones and a down at heel, but smartly uniformed junior school, where our 54 strong army plus outriders were welcomed into the playground.  The tiny wee Mayan children were ecstatic and awed but also properly ordered and bossed by their old-school teachers (themselves still but 2/3rds our size), so that when we took the stage they stood in ranks, maybe 200 of them and listened to the speech from their head and from our man-with-the-mike, or rather his translator, our local guide, Ruben.  “We come from England where we have a Queen.”  Funny the things one comes out with.
We threw a few rugby and footballs into the crowd and then had to break up the knot of kids that fastened on to each one before getting the balls to the teachers just. We were more careful with the sweets. Then it was the turn of our Star. Helen was happy to sing, she rightly always is, but what to sing to this crowd?  And then it came to her and all of us and the gobstopped kids got to hear ‘Twinkle twinkle, little star” for the first time ever, sung by 54 overgrown schoolkids, tripping out on the happiness they were causing.  Then Adam took it up a brilliant notch with a ipod full of Maiden blasting out through the PA and Rachel got up a conga as only she could and they even got to see some moustachioed air-guitar, again for the first time in their wee lives for sure.  And after Bazza had snuck some selfies with the prettiest of the teachers and the rest of us had engaged with the kids and all as best we could, we paraded out of the gate and back to the Hotel Maria de Luz on the square, leaving a sea of memories behind us, and taking another sea with us.

The hotel was a step up thanks be and had a poolside and limitless bar. Luke was robbed and the kitty was ripped off by waiters who eventually grew surly, but the evening was a truly great one. It started with beers, until Jason appeared with a fish-bowl margherita and we all had to have one.  Quite a few had a swim, but most just sat and did what Truants sit and do: we talked and drank and smoked – we are a rebel army after all – and got on better and better as always, before repairing across the road to the smartest restaurant in town for the same sort of buffet as the previous two nights, but this one 4 star to their 2 and 1 respectively.  We sat at long tables in our own room and slowly but steadily went through the gears until we were flying.  No one died, though the riot police were called and came all rifled up but they stayed outside and then departed. The HOD went to Twinkle, who got gloriously serenaded with her tune, though she has since made clear she will not have it as her theme, that’ll be ‘Don’t’ stop Believing’.  But for one night only she was our twinkling star and though she cut up the laurel-green T-shirt and got fined too, she wore it well.  The WOD was Gunnar, who the judge had decided was to blame for Mike Hole’s demise, no matter what Mike Hole said. ‘Twas done and well done amidst a blizzard of nominations and when that was done the Cooney play list got us jumpin’ as did his valiant attempt to head butt the paper ball hanging from the chandelier. He got there in the end  by using a chair as a launching pad and one by one the youth were called out to repeat the feat, until first Jason and then Big Frank scared us all and the foundations too, and better though less hilarious sense took hold and the music blared and we partied like mad, until chucked out we went to bed or most of us to the pub down the road, where some sat on the pavement and smoked cigars and drank margheritas passed outside by the gang inside who went sing along to the Cooney playlist once more.  A fantastic Truant night, we thought the next day, up there with best of them.

And the next day was the last on the road, and set to be another tough one at 70k’s, though a recently washed-away road shortened that by 10 I think, but no matter, the morning was scorching, poor Carol fell and badly damaged her calf, and the rest were seriously knackered as we climbed away from the crocodile lake and then down to the finish at the entrance to the deep water-hole or cenote, this one a great example of the amazing geographic feature endemic to the peninsula.  Carol had got back on the horse to show her steel, Jason powered down the final straight, Big Frank looked close to exploding and Robin Moore, Robin Moore, came riding through the glen to close our road trip of pain and sweat and broken bacon-strips as Luke so choicely named the part that saddles hurt the most. And then it was the short cavalcade to the cenote itself and the banner hung between lamp-post and man on the roof of a car and the photos and hugs (was any such ever sweatier?) and mutual congratulations and backslaps.  We had done it again, the pain was already been forgotten and the camaraderie could not be more real and wonderful.  We were and are Brothers and Sisters in Alms.
And then a great lunch – another 4 star version of the same – and another world class moment, just like that as we changed, showered and walked through the grassy glade to the entrance to the underworld, this one guarded not by Cerberus, but by a Mayan gent renting goggles and snorkles for 20 pesos. I borrowed 50 off Rachel and must repay her. 

Then it was down the steps and spiralling staircase and out into a vast cave, a sort of buried sphere maybe 30m in diameter and half full of crystal clear water and truants floating about. Jump they said and I did. Bloody hell it was a long way down.   Bazza was the yes-no-yes-no star as ever, giving it large as we all gave up on him, despite Rachels’ convincing floating temptress act.  Both were fined for their part in that.  And then it was up above ground and off in the coach for the ride to Tulum and the 5 star thank-the-lord Kore Hotel resort, where we saw the sea for the first time after a wonderfully amateur check in in what was v smart spot.  The staff seemed more focussed on the rules and don’t than on making us happy, but we got on with the party, gathering for champagne and margheritas in our funny T shorts, with Jason and The Bennies’ winning my vote, amidst lots of great efforts and a few non.  Thence to a fantastic buffet of the same array of Mexican-food-for-tourists as ever of course, but this one the full 5 stars.  We still were wise to beware the green sauce.

And then Rod told us we were closing in on the £2m total – incredible stuff – and HOD went to him, because it should really.  He thanked the pro’s, Henk and Gavin, and their team, and Helen and Helen, but while they are all vital, it’s his creation and his character, as Jason said, that gets us all there, a whole bunch of Alpha’s happy to play Beta to an ultimate Alpha! WOD went to poor brave Carol, because we all felt she deserved the magnificent Sombrero, and the only way she could get it was if we denied her the alternative Hero award and played by the rule established by Victor’s fall in Havana all those years ago.  She loved it thanks be.
And then the judging started, Pennington august, Bradbrooke and Curran learned and suitably pompous.  The quiet ones got off lightly with £30’s with the “ar******s just like me” getting £75’s. It should be being quiet that gets you fined on a Truants ride I say. Shack produced the highlight when challenged as to who he had had smashed up when they were secured to the back of his bike (thanks to Adam and Kevin seeing his fury at his allotted bike on day one).  “The Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus……who saved us all my Lord” came back a schoolboy voice.  “And Where Are They Now?”  “In heaven my Lord.”  We cried.

And then Eric gave us the traditional Flipper with a new Puppet on a String addition and while the veterans wept at all the memories the Rookies wondered who Flipper was.  They need to know that we need more loons like Eric!  But maybe not Bazza.  Or maybe yes, lots more Bazza’s, as if that was possible. Then it was Paul and Adam karaoke in the now closed now open now still open bar upstairs and shooting the breeze downstairs, before Sim and Helen and the proper players went off to town to salsa and while away the hours till maybe 0530, the rest of us fading on the way there in a singalong in the lobby bar, that many will remember for the swinging events that triggered a Cooney Gem at lunch the next day.  “I guess if you are a Kitzbuhel ski-instructor you are a bit like an Elf-Lord, you can get any stunning girl you like to do what you like.” said one enviously.  To which Cooney deadpanned: “But why then would you spend all night trying to get Gollum to shag her?”  You had to be there, but we were and we cried again. 
And that was it; a hangover, a slow lovely breakfast and then a bit of fun by the pool, a long, long lunch and the 5th Truants tour ended for the working classes who headed to the airport while the toffs stayed on for golf and fun with their WAGS on the Mexican riviera.  Lucky lovely things.
It is a special thing this, it really is.
X
 
 

...

A distressed England are out of the World Cup, the vultures in the press are on attack and the RFU are starting an inquest about where it all went wrong. Lancaster’s job is on the line, Robshaw’s captaincy is questioned, and of course we can’t have an angry conversation about rugby without throwing the Great Sam Burgess Debate in there too. Let’s be honest, no one really expected England’s World Cup to be over just two and a half weeks after the tournament began. However, it wasn’t a dream. England are out and they will retreat and rebuild.
 
Meanwhile, remember the build-up…ENGLAND IS HOSTING THE RUGBY WORLD CUP! We are still in the midst of a huge rugby party and we must continue to be generous and gracious hosts. Twickenham has never sounded so passionate, smaller stadiums are rocking and the talent on show has produced some of the classiest and most exciting games of rugby we’ve ever witnessed. This international tournament celebrates the game we love and we must stay on board. At the VU Dinners, we’ve heard fantastic stories from the likes of Springbok Chester Williams, Irish prop Paul Wallace, French legend Serge Betsen and the All Blacks’ Smokin’ Joe Stanley. During these evenings, it doesn’t matter where we’re from; we join together and support rugby. Only 3 more opportunities remain to join us at one of these very special and glamorous occasions in London – 16th, 23rd, 30th October – so forget the action on the pitch – revive your passion by remembering rugby memories past.
 
This week, Twickenham Stadium welcomes two rivals who usually only travel to this part of South West London with hopes of smashing England. On Saturday, the old enemy isn’t even there but Wales and Australia will fight it out to take the top spot in their pool. Whoever wins Saturday could very well be in the Final on 31st October. These matches matter.
 
VU continue to support the Home Nations and hope you will join us to cheer on Wales, Scotland and Ireland in the Quarter Finals. We have ticket packages for Twickenham and an amazing opportunity to travel in style to Millennium Stadium on our privately chartered Orient Express on 17th and 18th October. There’s a lot of excellent rugby ahead, so don’t miss out. Who knows when we’ll next see RWC on our shores again?! Contact the VU office for remaining availability on 01225 788880. But please forgive us if we sound a little tired – we have some wounds to lick…
 

...

No surprises as the press have been leaking this all week but here's the England team to face Wales this weekend. Thoughts?

15. Mike Brown (Harlequins, 40 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
13. Brad Barritt (Saracens, 24 caps)
12. Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby, 3 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 17 caps)
10. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 32 caps) 
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 50 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 34 caps)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 25 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 53 caps)
4. Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs, 26 caps)
5. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 41 caps)
6. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints, 39 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins, 40 caps)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 20 caps)

Replacements

16. Rob Webber (Bath Rugby, 14 caps)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 24 caps)
18. Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints, 13 caps)
19. Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 25 caps)
20. James Haskell (Wasps, 60 caps)
21. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 24 caps)
22. George Ford (Bath Rugby, 14 caps)
23. Alex Goode (Saracens, 18 caps) 

...

OMG it's finally here. Rugby World Cup 2015 is about to kick off and England have named their glorious team to face a rather threatening Fiji side on Friday.

15. Mike Brown (Harlequins, 39 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)
13. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 13 caps)
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens, 23 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 16 caps)
10. George Ford (Bath Rugby, 13 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 49 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 33 caps)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 24 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps)
4. Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs, 25 caps)
5. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 40 caps)
6. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints, 38 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins, 39 caps)
8. Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby, 29 caps)

Replacements

16. Rob Webber (Bath Rugby, 13 caps)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 23 caps)
18. Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints, 12 caps)
19. Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 24 caps)
20. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 19 caps)
21. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 23 caps)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 31 caps)
23. Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby, 2 caps) 

If you haven't sorted out your plans yet, it's not too late….but it will be soon! Check out our RWC pages for remaining packages here

 

...

So here it is. As we get closer to Rugby World Cup 2015, is this the England team we rest our hopes on? A strong Wales side beat Ireland and England were shaky aginst France last week.

England take on Ireland at home on Saturday. This looks good. Are you happy with this selection?

15. Mike Brown (Harlequins, 38 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)
13. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens, 22 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 15 caps)
10. George Ford (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 48 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 32 caps)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 23 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 51 caps)
4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 39 caps)
5. Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs, 24 caps)
6. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints, 37 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins, 38 caps)
8. Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby, 28 caps)

Replacements

16. Jamie George (Saracens, 1 cap)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 22 caps)
18. Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints, 11 caps)
19. Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 23 caps)
20. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 18 caps)
21. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 22 caps)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 30 caps)
23. Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)

...

Colin Charvis is a former captain of the Welsh rugby union team and also played for the British & Irish Lions. A back row forward, Colin was equally adept as a flanker or as the No. 8. Colin became the world record try scorer for a forward in test match rugby on 24 November 2007 v South Africa at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff with his 22nd international try.

How do you like to spend time after training and rugby matches?
Now I am retired I can have my feet up all day and relax
 
If you were stranded on a desert island who would be the worst team mate past or present to be with and why?
Austin Healy – trust me you would know why after being on deserted island!!!
 
Best city you have toured and played rugby in?
Cape Town – its an fabulous place
 
When you were young did you have a role model if so who was it?
I grew up playing soccer so my idol would be Gordon Cowans and Peter Withe
 
Earliest Rugby memory?
First time I went to a rugby training sessions at school and it was freezing. I was standing there with my nobbly knees in kit that that didn’t fit that I had to grow into and everyone that had played before pretty much beat me up for the next hour.
 
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be?
About 20 years ago it would have been Hugh Hefner. But nowadays I am very content with who I am. 
 

...

This is it! Preparation for Rugby World Cup starts here! 

England XV: Alex Goode, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Sam Burgess, Jonny May; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Rob Webber, Kieran Brookes, George Kruis, Geoff Parling, Tom Wood, Calum Clark, Ben Morgan

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Alex Corbisiero, David Wilson, Dave Attwood, James Haskell, Danny Care, Danny Cipriani, Billy Twelvetrees

 

...

Geoff Parling has appeared for England U16, U18, U19 and U21. At the age of 26, he played 30 matches, including his 80-minute contribution when Leicester Tigers beat Saracens 33-27 in the Premiership final of 2009-10, his debut season at Welford Road. He was the leading line-out ball winner with five takes in the next match against France and the joint top tackler, with 17, alongside Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood against Wales in the final game of the 2013 tournament. His initial start had been on his third appearance, against Wales at Twickenham in 2012 and he shared in the 24-22 win over France at Stade de France, Paris and the 30-9 triumph in the Ireland game.

How do you like to spend time after training and rugby matches?
Trim and shape my beard.

If you were stranded on a desert island who would be the worst team mate past or present to be with and why?
Would have to say Lee Mears, he would not stop talking and on a desert Island I would just want to chill.

Best city you have toured and played rugby in?
Australia

Most memorable match you have played in?
3rd test Match in Australia Lions 2013

Who do you think will win the 2014 Heineken Cup?
Leicester

Earliest Rugby memory?
Played rugby for school when I was about 11 against my Dads school and we won 5-0 I scored the try.

What’s is your favorite meal?
Just lots of food in general

Do you have a dream car if so what is it?
This may sound odd but, my first car was a rover 214 in a nice mahogany color with a hole in the side could open the door from the outside. Was the only car in a house full of lads I would just want it back for old times’ sake and a weekend car.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be?
I just want to be me

Worst injury?
ACL 

What is your best joke?
This was too rude to publish!!!!