Catering for England, Wales and Scotland fans, Gullivers ran a massive 11 tours in 2016! Here, some of our staff who worked out on tour, give us an insight into working on a Six Nations weekend. We're passionate about delivering a great experience for our clients, priding ourselves on giving a personal and friendly service - take a look at what we get up to before our clients arrive and what a Six Nations weekend is like from our perspective!
The Auld Enemies came face-to-face for the second match of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations, and despite a slightly lacklustre display from both teams, the weekend in Edinburgh didn’t disappoint. We love coming to Scotland’s capital – the Scottish hospitality and the fantastic rugby bars always make for a great Six Nations weekend!
Our clients were situated in a number of hotels across Edinburgh – at either end of the Grassmarket area and out near Murrayfield itself – but our weekend really started at the Ghillie Dhu, where we hosted our Clubhouse. Our MD, Sam Seward, took to the stage and hosted a Q&A with the formidable Al Kellock. With plenty of laughs, raised eyebrows and discussion about the match ahead, the night was still young. Many clients remained for the Ceilidh afterwards, whereas others hit the bars around the city centre.
Edinburgh was absolutely buzzing before the match, especially down at the Three Sisters pub on Cowgate where we based ourselves for some pre-match drinks and to watch the France v Italy match. The atmosphere was even better at Murrayfield – the SRU have done a really good job of creating an area full of bars and food vans outside the stadium, not too dissimilar to Twickenham’s infamous West Car Park.
The Scots were in full voice, but it was England that took the spoils…and with that, the heavens opened as we made our way back to the city centre. The tram service makes it really easy to get back into Edinburgh, but for those wanting to avoid the queues, it’s only a 45 minute walk (a lot longer if you combine it with a pub crawl, of course).
After a few wee drams and a lot of dancing into the small hours, it was off to bed before nursing headaches the next day whilst watching Ireland v Wales in yet another pub before heading home.
- Vicky C
As we arrived at Cardiff Airport to meet our first flight to Dublin, it was clear that there was a huge amount of excitement for the first weekend of the RBS 6 Nations 2016 (despite it being very early on Friday morning). With all the clients and baggage checked in, Gareth and myself made our way in to the departure lounge where we met by a sea of red – despite the fact the game wasn’t until Sunday, there were Welsh shirts everywhere! Some waited patiently in departures, grabbing a bite to eat or forty winks, however others we’re clearly here for the full tour experience and wasted no time getting in the bar before the flight!
Despite the dodgy weather on the way in, the flight was quick and fairly smooth, which for a nervous flyer like me was a blessing! Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worst when more clients arrived on Saturday, with a few ‘exciting’ landings in Dublin. Upon arrival we met Hayley in Terminal 1, who swiftly got the first group of clients off to their coach transfers and on the way to their hotels. With Hayley already in Dublin, it was brilliant to have everyone already checked in prior to their arrival, allowing them to grab their room key straight away and head to their rooms to get settled in.
With everyone checked in by mid-afternoon on Saturday, it was time to enjoy the delights of Dublin. The city was buzzing with Welsh and Irish rugby fans, with the majority sampling some of Dublin’s finest (Guinness, of course). You can feel the atmosphere begin to build even the day before the match, with scarfs, flags and hats already for sale and the pubs full to bursting!
Match day came, with the majority up early due to sheer excitement, despite a few throbbing heads from Saturday night antics. First on the agenda for the day is match ticket distribution at our chosen hotels. With all the clients pocketing their match tickets, as well as scarfs and lanyards, the hotel lobbies and bars were full with trepidation.
The build-up wasn’t over yet thought – it was time for our pre-match exclusive Gullivers Clubhouse event. Taking place at the Camden Court Hotel, we were set up early and eagerly awaited the arrival of our clients as well as the guest speaker for the day, British & Irish Lions and Wales legend, Adam Jones. As our Gullivers Rugby Ambassador, Adam took to the stage for a Q&A session which I was privileged to compere. Adam enlightened the 200+ attendees with his rugby knowledge, experience and of course some great touring stories. Once I had my questions for Adam out of the way, it was time for the audience to ask their questions, the best of which; “Is your hair real or permed?”. The event was a huge success, with clients enjoying having a chat with Adam, grabbing a picture, signed merchandise, as well as a bacon roll and free drink - fuel for the day ahead!
With the Clubhouse over and a few morsels of bacon remaining, it was time to make our way to the Aviva Stadium for the match. This 50,000 seater stadium is easy to make your way to, with some fantastic bars and pubs on the way to ensure you ‘rest your feet’ on the journey.
Ireland started out on top, with the Aviva roaring as Ireland took an early lead. However Wales fought back towards the end of the first half, with a great try from Toby Faletau helping Wales get back in touch, Ireland led 13-10 at half time. A hugely confrontational and physical second half saw 3 points for Wales not long after the restart, levelling things up 13-13. However neither team then budged an inch for the best part of 30 minutes with both Ireland and Wales struggling to find the attacking penetration needed to edge over the try line. Rhys Priestland then looked to have delivered what could have been a winning penalty in the 73rd minute. Wales led 16-13, but with the 4 minutes left on the clock, Wales gave away a penalty on the 10 metre line. Johnny Sexton was more than happy to oblige, not his cleanest strike, but it crept inches inside the right-hand post. 16-16 was how it stayed, probably a fair result in tough conditions, however it was still a hugely exciting game with both teams tenacious in defence.
With the all our flights returning back Monday morning, we all enjoyed one final night in Dublin. Transfers left throughout the day, with staff making sure clients made all their flights home. However the unpredictable world of aviation meant that unfortunately one flight returning to Heathrow was cancelled due to bad weather. All staff responded immediately by finding alternative routes home for some passengers, or providing accommodation and a flight home the next morning. Some clients were clearly distraught about the extended stay, more concerned with the quest way back in to town and to the Guinness Storehouse!
As always, Dublin is a fantastic Six Nations destination which provides an unrivalled rugby tour experience. The friendly nature of the locals, great sightseeing locations (and of course the rugby) mean that if you haven’t done Dublin on a rugby weekend, you must!
- Drew B
Arriving into Cardiff on a sunny Friday afternoon, it was great to be back in city where I went to University and full of excitement for the rugby weekend ahead. As I walked around Cardiff setting up at all the hotels, I was amazed at the number of Scottish fans who were present for the game - Cardiff had been taken over! As always with the Six Nations, the atmosphere was great with fans mixing and enjoying themselves. With the news coming through that the roof was going to be shut, that further added to the excitement as it’s well known that Principality Stadium has the best atmosphere anyway, but when the roof is closed it is electric.
On the Friday evening, we hosted the Gullivers Clubhouse at The Yard Pub on St Mary's Street. We had an exclusive area upstairs which was great – the atmosphere was really nice with both Wales and Scotland fans in attendance and sharing stories of games in the past and predictions for tomorrow. A part of my job that I really love is getting to meet players past and present and the opportunity to find out more about their job and how they got where they did. For this event, Hallam Amos attended and I got to do a Q&A session with him. At only 21 and already an International for a highly successful Wales team - whilst juggling a medical degree - it’s fair to say he is doing pretty well. He was very well spoken, highly professional and it was a pleasure for us all to hear his story and thoughts on the game. Most people got photos, autographs and a chance to have a chat with Hallam before enjoying the bar for the rest of the evening.
As part of Gullivers' packages this year when giving out the tickets we gave out team scarves also which went down really well, great quality merchandise and it was pretty cold too so it was nice to see everyone in the stadium wearing their scarves.
The game started to an electric atmosphere with an early try for Wales. After that however they really struggled to dominate and Scotland were really on top. It was only after Hogg went off injured that Scotland seemed to not be able to assert their authority on the game. With Wales not firing on all cylinders, the crowd were not in full song. However in the second half - when Roberts went over the line after a sustained period of pressure - the game changed. After that Wales really were in control and despite a last minute try for Scotland they just left it too late to come back into the game.
As always in Cardiff the atmosphere was great after the game, aided by the Welsh win and the excitement of the games to come!
- Ali R
For the romantic rugby fan, what better place to celebrate than Valentine's weekend in Rome for Italy v England? Thankfully the rugby and the city lived up to expectation.
Our second largest weekend in the Six Nations calendar saw a team of staff head across to Rome to welcome our clients in on both Friday and Saturday. As well as scheduled flights, we chartered planes from Luton and Gatwick. Friday in particular was a busy day at Rome airport with wave upon wave of England fans - including some famous rugby faces - filling the arrivals hall at Fiumicino airport.
At the other end of the transfers, our friendly team were waiting in the eight city centre hotels to check everyone in and give helpful tips on getting around Rome, out to the stadium and where to go to eat and drink that evening.
We all love our rugby but also really enjoy visiting new places and discovering some of the culture of the places we are visiting. A weekend in Rome is something very special and when Saturday dawned crisp and blue, we knew that we were in for a good day.
Many of our group made the most of the weather to go sightseeing – the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel amd Spanish Steps were the most popular and whenever energy dipped a bar, trattoria or ice cream parlour was on the corner to lift spirits and set us back on our way.
On Saturday afternoon, we combined the France v Ireland game with our Clubhouse event and this was a highlight of the weekend. Ollie Phillips entertained and probed Ugo Moyne with questions and anecdotes that soon got the room laughing and engaged. A Q&A session was followed up by questions from the floor and afterwards both stayed around to chat with our supporters. As our event drew to a close, the Wales v Scotland game kicked off and with the sound up and atmosphere of Cardiff filling the auditorium, many of our supporters settled back in their seats with a cold beer or vino rosso and enjoyed a pulsating game that ended with the Welsh pulling away from the Scots in the second half.
Just down the road, the remainder of our supporters had made their way across to Flann O’Briens in Via Nazionale – the unofficial ‘rugby HQ’ in Rome and our adopted home for the weekend. A great atmosphere with a bar full to the brim of rugby fans, the evening festivities continued well after the final whistle had been blown.
Sunday was match day and thankfully the promised storms didn’t materialise and we all headed out in the morning for a wander around Rome before settling down for a hearty Italian lunch. The Stadio Olimpico is on the edge of the city and soon after lunch, rugby fans converged from all over the city to take the buses and tram out to the stadium.
Inside the huge crowd were in good voice and after a messy start England found their way with a try from George Ford and once Jonathan Joseph had found his form there was very little to stop his hat trick of tries that lead to a convincing 9-40 victory.
After the match, celebrations continued back in Flann O’Briens and on Monday we all awoke with heads full of piazzas and pizza, England tries and crazy driving. All feeling the buzz from an action packed weekend in Rome and looking forward to returning someday soon.
- Rachel B
Cardiff is such a great place to go to for the rugby, especially during the Six Nations, with Principality Stadium being so centrally located it is easy to access from all over…and the Welsh are some of the most passionate supporters I have ever met!
The majority of our clients were staying in Newport, which is around a 15 minute train journey to Cardiff Central. Before the game we arranged to meet clients in one of the local bars to discuss their predictions for the game and the on-going tournament. The bar, as expected, was building in atmosphere in the lead up to the game, with the France supporters singing in union and other supporters watching highlights of past Six Nations matches on the screens around the bar.
Principality Stadium is one of the best I have been to, even with the roof open (due to a technical fault) the stadium was full of song, and one of my favourites ‘Delilah’ was in full swing come the time we got to our seats. As the teams were coming out on to the field, the pyrotechnic show was warming up the crowd for what everyone hoped was going to be a good game.
The game, scrappy at times was tainted by some picky refereeing calls, missed penalties and opportunities by both teams. Wales went in to half-time with a slight advantage, leaving everyone wondering what was in store for the second half! Wales managed to score a try early on in the second half, albeit a lucky one with George North’s ‘football skills’ not on par and a failed pick-up attempt by France. A last minute try by France saw the game finish 19-10.
At the end of the game, we headed into Cardiff where there are plenty of places to go out for celebratory drinks or a late bite to eat.
- Sarah B
The day before the game is always a busy day with lots to prepare to make sure that everything goes smoothly over the weekend. Whilst some of the team headed off to each of the hotels to make sure they were ready for all the arrivals and to get our noticeboards up, Henry and myself went to look at one of the new hotels we are bringing in for the 2017 Six Nations – the planning never stops! The Hilton London Bankside, a brand new hotel close to the river, is such a fantastic addition to our packages and we are sure that it will offer a wonderful and relaxing stay in London. We are always looking to improve our customer offering and with this hotel we are certainly doing that. After a good meeting, it was off to the hotels to meet all the Gullivers customers checking in for their two night stays. It’s always so great to meet all the people we may have spoken to on the phone or just meet them for the first time and have some chat about the rugby.
Teamwork at Gullivers is a big focus and when on tour it’s important to get together, socialise and work together. On Friday evening, we all got together for dinner. With some staff working in different offices, it’s great to spend time together, as well as running through the day and plan ahead for the big day tomorrow.
On Saturday morning - game day - we handed out tickets to those staying on two night packages. This is always fun as it’s what everyone is waiting for, the match ticket – especially for a game of this magnitude. Also this year we have made scarves specific to each nation and they are really good quality and a nice touch.
Our first Gullivers Clubhouse of the day was at the Stokes & Moncrieff pub in Twickenham, a beautiful pub owned by ex-England player, Simon Shaw. With free drinks and bacon sandwiches, it was a lovely relaxing start to the day, especially with the glorious sunshine outside. Ollie Phillips hosted a Q&A with Lee Mears. They were brilliant. Insightful, funny and the two of them had a great rapport. It’s always a highlight for me to be able to work with sportsmen and women and to be able to listen to them talk about the game and their careers.
After this, we all headed up to the Twickenham Stoop for the second Clubhouse of the day, the pre-match session. Being very lucky with the weather again, this was a nice relaxing build up to the game in the surroundings of the Harlequins' ground. We were joined by Adam Jones, Gareth Thomas and Dave Atwood. The Q&A was great. Gareth Thomas spoke so well and was very funny and is clearly adored by the Welsh fans. Again to be in the proximity of two players with so many International caps and also Lions caps is just amazing. Attention then turned to Ireland v Italy and Ireland really turned it on for this game - nice to be able to watch the game with a cider in the sunshine! With just a short walk over to Twickenham, people started heading over at about 3pm leaving us with a quick clean up to get in front of the TV or into the stadium just in time for the big kick off!
England really took control in the first half against a very poor performing Wales team. In the second half, Wales really put the pressure on and forged a comeback leading to a very tense last five minutes. With Scotland, finally getting the result their performances have deserved, England are now the winners of this year’s Six Nations. Here’s to Paris and the Grand Slam…!
- Ali R.
Who can forget the ‘Super Saturday’ in last year’s RBS Six Nations? Although the Championship had already been decided, the final games of this fantastic tournament saw a repeat of the fixtures from last year. We all arrived in Cardiff hoping to see a Wales performance after the disappointment from last week’s match at Twickenham.
Match day in Cardiff is second to none, the location of Principality Stadium means everyone is able to enjoy the atmosphere of central Cardiff with crowds filling the streets and bars at a very early hour. It was nice to see a large number of Italian supporters that had made the trip to Cardiff and their pre match enthusiasm meant for a great atmosphere. The talk in the bars wasn’t so much about the result, but if the home team could put together an 80 minute performance....only time would tell?
After a couple of social beverages we made the very short walk to the stadium and enjoyed the pre match entertainment which included singing along with the male voice choir - a fantastic spectacle. The stadium roof was closed which kept the cold winds out and enhanced the occasion. The atmosphere as always was electric and proved that Principality Stadium is one of the best stadiums in the world.
Once the match started it did not disappoint. From the first whistle it clear Wales were trying to make amends and put on a performance in front of a full house. The returning Rhys Webb looked back to his best and opened the scoring for the hosts, immense pressure was being put on the Italians and although they battled throughout they were being overpowered and two further tries followed before half time. It was more of the same in the second half and Wales scored a further six tries in what was a very impressive all round performance. Italy due their credit scored two tries of the own (which made the day of the visiting fans) but did not take away from a fantastic Welsh performance which cemented second place in the RBS 6 Nations table. With the likes of Toby Faletau, Jamie Roberts and George North having very impressive tournaments, we all left thinking ‘what if’ but looking forward the summer tour and the Autumn Internationals with great confidence.
After the game, we made the very short walk back to St Mary’s street to enjoy the matches in Dublin and Paris.
- Rob D
After a short flight to Dublin from Bristol, we landed on Thursday 17th March (St. Patricks Day!) and the atmosphere was buzzing. The journey from the airport to the hotel showed us that Dublin was ready for the weekend ahead, with fancy dress, groups of festive tourists and street–side entertainment.
Friday saw the arrival of our clients, with our priority to greet all the guests and assisting with their check-ins. The guests were excited to be in Dublin after relatively stress-free journeys all-round. Once the guests were settled in, it was time for our evening welcome drinks at Flannery’s pub – a brilliant Irish pub with friendly staff, located in a lively area near restaurants and bars. As the clients arrived and exchanged their drinks vouchers at the bar; we took the opportunity to get to know some of the fans travelling with us. A great night with clients getting the opportunity to get to know some like-minded rugby fans.
Saturday was of course match day, so we set out to our hotel receptions for 9am for the important part of the tour – match ticket distribution. By 10:15 all of our guests had received their match tickets and a complementary supporter’s scarf, with quite a few clients collecting their tickets early to ensure there was plenty of time for sightseeing and of course, Guinness-tasting. Then it was off to the match in the afternoon! A fantastic and high scoring match between Ireland and Scotland made great viewing, despite it not quite being the result some clients were hoping for. Ireland took the win 35-25 in a free flowing and exciting game, with seven tries scored.
Sunday morning was check out time for the majority of our guests. A few fuzzy heads made their way into the lobby and after assisting with check out, clients made their way back to the airport for their flights home.
Overall the weekend was a huge success, Dublin always guarantees a fantastic Six Nations weekend, whatever the result!
- Ashleigh L
It's time - Le Crunch is almost here. The Gullivers' team met at HQ to travel mini bus to St. Pancras Station to catch the Eurostar. Check-in couldn't be simpler, greeting lots of clients who all seem in similarly high spirits, despite the early start. What a slick operation Eurostar is and why, these days, would you choose to travel to Paris any other way? The train is bustling with good humoured rugby banter and the sound of ring pulls opening can be heard as regularly as a clocking ticking up and down the train.
We arrive on time and exit the breezy and somewhat inhospitable Gare du Nord. The sun is shining and spring time in Paris has its very own special allure. It is unquestionably a beautiful city and perfect for a rugby weekend away. The coaches are all lined up outside the station and more Gullivers' staff are ensuring clients get onto the correct coaches to their hotels.
So after a solid four hours sleep (Margaret Thatcher can do it so can I) it is time for the all-important match ticket distribution. With ticket distribution across all our hotels, all the staff were busy – with clients arriving early to collect their tickets.
With the match a late kick off, clients milled around the city on the Metro or RER visiting the top sights including the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Le Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Musee d’Orsay and the Palaces of Versailles, as well as taking relaxing river cruises down the River Seine. Naturally these high energy activities needed to be interspersed with fuel stops along the way and Paris offers a multitude of high quality restaurants up on a plate.
Pre-match all Gullivers' clients were invited to our Clubhouse at Corcoran's Irish Bar just down from the Sacre Coeur - great craic for a pre-match meet. Big screens around the pub showed the Wales v Italy match and as you'd expect the support was brimming over for our fellow home nation!
Ollie Phillips, former England Sevens and Stade de France fullback led the Q&A with Ugo Monye, former England International and British and Irish Lion. The rugby discussion was lively and spirited and sparodic cheers of "Ugo Ugo Ugo’ rang out from sections of our supporters. The afternoon culminated in two of our clients with 30th and 40th birthdays respectively heading up to the stage to down the mandatory pint and to enjoy a photo opportunity with the celebrities. Finally Ugo Monye wrapped up the afternoon with an entertaining rap which got everyone pumped up and ready go. The Ireland v Scotland game was still in full flow but it was with optimism in the air and a clean sweep in sight that we marched off to the Stade de France. Would England achieve their goal and win their first Grand Slam in 13 years?
Once at the stadium, the familiar tunes of the national anthems were belted out by the sell-out 81,000 capacity crowd with more vigour than usual with a defiant sense of national pride on both countries parts. St George’s flags and England rugby merchandise, including our Gullivers’ white and red scarves, were dotted around the stadium but in the first few minutes of the match with the French team advancing and looking defiant, a sea of Tricolour flags erupted, closely followed by a rendition of La Marseillaise. The French team hadn’t just turned up, they were determined not to be put down.
First half tries from Danny Care and Dan Cole helped to appease the tension from the England supporters around the stadium but French scrum-half Maxime Machenaud continue to clock up the points from penalities keeping them in contention for pretty much the entire match. In the end Anthony Watson’s second half try, followed by more points from the boot of Owen Farrell and a final surge of energy and defiance from the England team following Captain Dylan Hartley’s submission to injury, proved just too much for the French. 31-21 on a crisp Spring evening in Paris, England had sealed their win and finally seized their Grand Slam glory. Triumphing in Paris always makes for a sweet victory and the white clusters of celebrations around the Stade in Saint Denis and in city centre Paris continued long into the night.
The next morning, clients with sore heads and moderately broken bodies boarded the transfer coaches from the hotels back to the Gare du Nord the next day. The Eurostar carriages fell silent on the return journey with bodies sleeping and rejuvenating getting ready for the week ahead…but none of it mattered. England had done it! Faith had been restored England were the 2016 Grand Slam winners.
- Claire B