Catering for England, Wales and Scotland fans, Gullivers ran 10 tours in 2017!
Here, some of our staff who worked out on tour give you 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 Six Nations exploded into life with a scintillating match to warm the cockles of a capacity Murrayfield crowd shivering in a mixture of icy breeze and pre-match tension. The Gullivers group rolled smoothly into town courtesy of the Edinburgh tram system and, with hotels within a short stroll of either end of Princes Street, were well positioned to enjoy the beautiful architecture, sights and sounds of Edinburgh (and in some cases buy-off the other half with a morning’s shopping).
Pre-match festivities kicked off with a ‘wee dram’ at Cowgate’s Three Sisters pub – a Gullivers favourite and sporting mecca, where a generous smattering of large screens were drowned out by the excited hubbub. Blue and green shirts mingled freely, with the opinions of the Gullivers group divided between a home or away win.
Deposited directly outside Murrayfield by the ever-dependable tram, now somewhat rammed and rather raucous, we were ready for the off! Ireland, coming off the back of a stunning win against the All Blacks were favourites; an improving Scotland with home advantage and determined to send off their departing coach Vern Cotter in style – who would prevail?
It was the Scots who started the sharper, hungrier in defence despite shipping penalties at the set piece, and it was their talismanic full back Stuart Hogg who opened the scoring, first spinning out of a last ditch tackle, then scorching through the opposing defence to consolidate the lead.
Stung into action, wave after wave of Irish possession eventually sent Keith Earls over in the corner, however, a sneaky Scottish lineout caught the Irish defence napping and Alex Dunbar crossed to give Scotland a 21-8 lead at half time.
Murrayfield was rocking, but it was the Irish who dragged themselves back into the match, first with a forwards try from Ian Henderson, then Paddy Jackson scything through to score, his conversion putting the Irish into the lead for the first time – the game was on a knife edge and the volume reaching fever pitch.
At many a point in recent years, this has been the signal for a Scottish collapse. However, tenacity, grit and determination halted the Irish momentum, Scotland controlling possession and eventually winning a penalty to nudge themselves back into a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, captain Greig Laidlaw adding a final penalty as the clock went red and the crowd went into delirium.
For Scotland - only their second win on the opening weekend of the Six Nations - saw them regain the Centenary Quaich, the Gaelic drinking vessel the teams have competed over since 1989, tying up the overall stakes at 14 a-piece. For Ireland, ruing chances missed and an uncharacteristically high error count, Italy next weekend gives them an opportunity to atone. For the Gullivers crew, readily identifiable in their OddBalls woolly 'obble' hats, an evening of revelry in an Edinburgh nightlife buoyed by a home win was something to experience.
Oh how we love the Six Nations!
- Wills. A
The excitement was building ahead of 2017 RBS 6 Nations - not just because of the success of the Home Nations in the Autumn Internationals - but as this is a Lions year, there is always more at stake. Any trip to Rome is special, the cobbled streets, ancient ruins and beautiful architecture really do make this a city like no other on the Six Nations calendar.
We had an early start on Friday in advance of our private charter flight from Cardiff, as well as departures from London Heathrow, everyone hopeful that Wales could start the tournament well and shake off the scrutiny that has followed them from the autumn. On arrival in Rome we met our coaches and transferred into the city to the various hotels allowing our clients to marvel in this beautiful city for the rest of the day. Many went to visit the famous landmarks such as the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Colosseum, all of which were very close to our hotels. With the game on Sunday, our clients were able to enjoy Saturday either doing the tourist thing or hunting down an establishment to watch the Scotland v Ireland and England v France games.
It was great to meet with all of our clients on the morning of the match to hand out the tickets; the majority were very confident that Wales would get the job done, some were a little nervous after the shock result at Murrayfield. As what is customary with all Gullivers tours, we invite our clients to a Clubhouse function prior to the game to enjoy a drink and speak to like-minded fans. We were joined this year by former British Lion and Welsh International Lee Byrne, who spent time with our clients giving his perspective on the game.
From the clubhouse, we then made the trip out to the iconic Stadio Olimpico for the match. The Italian national anthem is one of the best around and we were we not disappointed with a rousing rendition before the game - the patriotism was clear for everyone to see. The match started with both teams trying to work each other out but the weather did not help this, and the first half was a little stop start. Italy, to their credit, matched the more experienced Welsh team and scored the first try of the game much to the delight of the home crowd with their talisman Sergio Parisse involved in everything Italy did.
Wales went into the break down on the scoreboard but knowing they had many opportunities in the first half to score points. Wales came out in the second half with a lot more precision and managed to control the game; Leigh Halfpenny kicking the penalties to take the lead in the match. An Italian sinbinning allowed Wales to score through Jonathan Davies and later in the game, Liam Williams and George North crossed for the visitors. A fourth try (and bonus point) was in reach at the end, but the ball would not stick and the final try was ruled out correctly by the TMO. The final whistle went and Wales got the win they craved. Our clients spent their evening in varying ways but all were very pleased they had avoided what could have been a potential banana skin.
Rome, you have once again delivered. Roll on week two!
- Rob. D
It was great to catch up with a number of familiar faces and also new faces who were travelling with Gullivers for the first time the morning before the game. When handing out tickets, we also gave out our custom-made Oddballs bobble hats, which certainly were well received as the snow began to fall outside! As the rival banter began to fill the hotel reception,the excitement began to build with a sea of Welsh fans wearing daffodils and face painted English fans making their way into the town centre.
As our hotels were within a short stroll of Principality Stadium, Gullivers' clients either made their way directly to the match or met us at our Clubhouse for a pre-match drink. Due to Adam Jones’s unfortunate injury the night before, he was unable to attend our Q&A. With Ryan Jones stepping in to take Adam's place, a great Q&A session took place between Ollie Phillips, Simon Shaw and Ryan where they debated the outcome of the coming match. Both Simon and Ryan shared some brilliant stories and it was really interesting to hear Ryan’s perspective of the pre-match build up and game day from a player's point of view. Simon's hilarious story about a certain South African second row is probably better not repeated here!
From the Clubhouse, we took the short walk to the stadium and you could feel the excitement growing. The match - oh, the match - what a game. It was neck and neck the whole way through. Liam Williams scoring just before half time had the stadium rocking until the last four minutes of the game when Elliot Daly went over in the corner. It was a brilliant game and had everyone on the edge of their seats for the whole 80 mins.
- Lucy. P
Early on Friday morning Sarah, Caroline, Sarah and I made our way to Birmingham airport for our flight out to Paris in preparation for the arrival of our Scottish clients due to arrive on Saturday afternoon. Everything ran very smoothly on our journey and we managed to get all of our kit onto the metro system and to our hotel for the evening near the Gare du Nord. We all settled in and then made our way to our individual hotels to set up noticeboards and check all hotel arrangements were in place for our arrivals on Saturday. All went to plan aside from two of us managing to wedge a Gullivers kit bag in one of the narrow metro gates and having to have assistance from a lovely French lady to free it! In the evening, we had a nice meal overlooking the Opera house – gloriously lit up and gave us a real feel how beautiful the city is and why clients love to come here, not only for the rugby, but for the stunning sightseeing and food Paris offers.
Our clients arrived from Edinburgh on Saturday in good spirits after their convincing win over Ireland the previous week. Happily the transfers to the city centre were smooth and relatively traffic free (novel for us on Six Nations weekends!). With clients all settled in and off to explore the culinary delights of France’s capital, we had an early night in preparation for the big match day and ticket collection the next morning. After breakfast, we all made our way to our hotels with tickets and our ‘Oddballs’ bobble hats in hand, clients were particularly taken with the dazzling holographic tickets for the game! Then from lunchtime, we arranged a casual pre-match drink with clients if they wished to join us. We joined a great crowd at the Hideout pub near the Gare du Nord station; this ensured easy access to the stadium by train after our gathering. We had kilts aplenty, a piper outside and the ‘Flower of Scotland’ resonated around the pub and the surrounding streets. Scottish and French fans alike joined together to create a fantastic pre-match ambiance, all in full voice alternating ‘La Marseillaise’ and ‘You take the High road’ and many more! Such a happy crowd and a mutual admiration for each other’s culture. I caught many a glimpse of French waiters working in restaurants snapping a quick picture of the Scottish gents in their traditional kilts!
The excitement was building and we boarded the RER trains to get us out to the stadium. Heightened security meant a couple of bag searches but then straight to our seats. A trip to Stade de France is always helped along by the two fantastic brass bands which play throughout the game and of course the hundreds of Tricolour flags the french wave to cheer on their team. The game was a tough one for the Scots; they took an early lead with a try from Stuart Hogg but with a huge French pack dominating the scrum and several nasty injuries to the Scots team, France proved too strong. The Scots fought to the final minutes holding fast into the second half at 16-16. Sadly the final minutes of the game saw Scotland run a bit ragged and a couple of poor decisions meant the French picked up two penalties to finish at 22-16. A well fought battle by the Scots and encouraging play, but we left the stadium to the French flags waving and a distant roar of ‘Allez les Bleus’ A little disappointing but still a good game, and lovely to see the Scottish boys with a real thirst to win. The next day saw the clients transferred back to the airport and flights back to Edinburgh. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend for us as staff with lovely clients who really appreciated the city and the rugby alike.
- Jody. A
On a fateful Friday afternoon, five knights of the realm battled the storms to Edinburgh for the clash of Scotland v Wales and met up with the resident Scot rep, Bonesy, who also joined the team for the weekend. Scotland were searching for their first win against Wales for ten years and it was surely the best chance they have had to break the trend of defeats?
The sun was shining in Edinburgh with seas of red and blue across the city. Rather more surprising, there was a strong French and South African contingent amongst the other fans! We even saw a lot of Irish and we were in the same hotel as Irish officials who were happy to chat with Gullivers customers and staff. The pubs around the Grassmarket and Royal Mile had the hum of Welsh hymns accompanied by bagpipes and The Proclaimers in abundance.
Saturday morning was for ticket distribution in the hotels and made our way to the Three Sisters clubhouse for a Q&A with Luke Broadley, media manager for the WRU and Jonny Petrie, Managing Director of Edinburgh Rugby and former Glasgow and Scotland captain. It was a real treat to get behind the scene insight to the day-to-day of professional set-ups. To add to the task for Luke and Jonny, they had to battle against the Tom Jones tribute in the bar next door! It was very kind and an excellent Q&A with the two of them.
As the Q&A finished, we started to disperse to BT Murrayfield for the main event. Both sets of fans were confident of victory for their team which made the excitement and atmosphere electric as the players came onto the pitch for the anthems. The weather was perfect for an open expansive game. The first half was fiercely contented and Wales looked to take the upper hand with Liam Williams scoring in the corner. The classic cliché that it is a game of two halves. Scotland came out and moved the ball really well. Wales had seemed to have lost a bit of direction and their spark in the second half. Moments of brilliance from Stuart Hogg stood out in the second half and his quick hands set up the Tim Visser try.
Talking to Gullivers clients after from both sides, the consensus was that a few players from Wales may have played themselves out of a Lions spot and a few of the Scots have played their way into the squad. Man of the Match Finn Russell has certainly stuck his hand up after the weekend. It makes for a fascinating last two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations with Scotland travelling to Twickenham and Wales hosting Ireland. Both teams have a lot to play for in the next game but for different reasons.
We all flew home on Sunday having had a brilliant weekend and all managed to have a quick trip to Edinburgh Castle for the team shot.
- Henry. K
On a mild, overcast March morning Hayley (one of our Six Nations Senior Tour Co-ordinators) and I left the office and made our way across the border to Cardiff for the highly anticipated Wales v Ireland Six Nations fixture. As we arrived at our hotel, you could sense the atmosphere already, with the lobby decked out in red for the almighty Welsh and green and orange for the lucky Irish.
As I made my way round Cardiff distributing tickets at our hotels, crowds of Welsh and Irish fans were in their droves soaking up the excitement of the match, with many wearing face-painted Irish shamrocks and Welsh dragons.
From the hotel, we made our way to the stadium, where huge crowds were gathering at the sold out match. Before the match began tributes were given to a three Welsh Rugby players, which was extremely heartfelt and emotional and brought the crowd to their feet to show their appreciation.
As the match got underway, most of the first half was fairly even with possession of the ball equal to both sides; until Jonny Sexton was given a yellow card and left the field to answer his sins. The closed roof of the stadium helped to add to the atmosphere, with fans roaring their approval of the ball turning over numerous times. In the second half and with only five minutes to the end of play, Jamie Roberts helped Wales add another try to the score, which sealed the deal of a convincing win over the defeated Irish.
Cardiff is absolutely fantastic on a Six Nations weekend!
- Mel. C
On Friday morning, Jody and I set off to London, to check rooming lists and set up the hospitality desk at a range of different hotels across London. As we both needed to meet different clients for their early ticket collections, we went our separate ways. That evening, we met Henry and Sam (our MD) for a catch up coffee to check everything was going ok and to check in on plans for tomorrow. Jody and I went for dinner and an early night followed for match day tomorrow as England looked to seal the 2017 RBS 6 Nations and the Calcutta Cup against Scotland who have improved massively under coach Vern Cotter.
Saturday came and game day arrived - it was good to hear the friendly banter that was happening as ticket collection was in progress! The passionate Scots in full flow, kilts in a range of different colours was good to see. After ticket collection had finished, it was off to the Twickenham Stoop for the Gullivers Clubhouse. The weather was the best day of the year so far; warm spring sunshine with everyone enjoying their refreshments from the bar. The Q&A started, hosted by Ollie Phillips and guests Ugo Monye and Chris Paterson, with some interesting questions and stories being told. With our guests also having access to the England Women v Scotland Women match, people were looking forward to a fun filled day of rugby. The game finished with a convincing win for England it was time to move over to HQ for the main event.
As people rushed to the seats to catch the national anthems and the start of what was going to be an interesting match. England started the quicker of the two sides. Scotland tried to breakdown England’s stubborn defense with only a few scores. England scored 61 points on the afternoon, making them Six Nations champions and Calcutta cup winners.
People then wandered back into central London to their beds after an action packed weekend of rugby with smiles on their faces.
- Tom. F
The Gullivers team rolled into Edinburgh from its local base in St Andrews and set up for our many customers travelling to this beautiful City. In some cases, some customers had never been to Edinburgh - nevermind been to Murrayfield - so it was going to be a fantastic weekend with hopefully a Scotland home win.
Friday night consisted of being available in the Hotel foyer at the Holiday Inn Edinburgh Zoo meeting the customers as they arrived for their weekend special. After what was a beautiful carvery dinner, it was down to talking rugby and what Scotland need to do to regain the players' and supporters' confidence after their previous week's loss to England.
The location of the hotel was perfect for match day as it was only a 20-minute walk to the Murrayfield Hotel or locally known as “The Bothy”. A meeting point for all nationalities wearing red, white blue, green, it was a rainbow of rugby nations, coming together as one. It was almost time, and as people started making their 5-minute walk to Murrayfield, the rain came down, and it was that really “wet rain” that soaks you, so to brighten the mood, supporters decided it was time to partake in a local beverage and a pulled pork burger roll.
The mood and temperature inside now were getting hotter with Scotland's very own Red Hot Chilli Pipers steering the crowd into a frenzy with Loch Lomond and other crowd pleasers. Then it was time…
Scotland kicked off to Italy and you could see the hesitation in both teams as the first half went on. The high ball seemed to be the plan for both teams to try and establish ground, however, for the first 20 minutes, it was Scotland that was pinned down in their own 22. The crowd were apprehensive and wondered if the team's confidence was still down after the England defeat the week before, however no sooner had they thought that when Finn Russell managed to get the ball through hands with the support of his forwards in Hamish Watson, and finally into the hands of full back and potential Lion Stuart Hogg for the first try. But things were still a little flat on the park. Italy were given three penalties in succession from difficult areas around the park, however, it wasn’t to be the Italy fly-half's kicking day, as he missed all penalties, so come half time, Scotland went in 10-0 up.
The second half was much different. The rain had stopped, Vern Cotter, who was coaching his last ever match for Scotland, had spoken to the team and remotivated them on how to get clear daylight between them and Italy. Murrayfield really got behind their team with then belting out Flower of Scotland and Loch Lomond followed by the fun loved Mexican wave. It always brings a smile to your face. As the game went on, Scotland started edging in front with a further try from Tommy Seymour who just can't stop scoring and penalties from Finn Russell who really started to command the backline. Final score and final win of the Six Nations went to Scotland 29-0. A fitting way to say thank you to Vern Cotter.
- Craig. B
Heading out to Paris a day earlier than the Gullivers clients to make sure all the hotels, coaches and tickets were ready, we checked in for the Eurostar in London on Thursday morning. The Eurostar process at St Pancras is such a delight and so relaxed. It was also a beautiful morning with the sun light streaming through the glassed roof at St Pancras. Once in Paris, it was a whistle stop tour around all the hotels, catching up with colleagues that we talk to all year in preparation for these big events. It was almost like a summer’s evening in Paris on Thursday, with a deceptively warm temperature - unfortunately, the early spring warmth didn’t remain!
On Friday, we greeted the clients and our travelling staff off the Eurostar and got away to our hotels either in the Terminus Nord, Opera or Bercy areas. It’s always great on event weekends to see so many travelling fans arrive into foreign cities and certainly there was a large Welsh contingent on Eurostar on Friday! Everyone checked into the hotels and that evening, we enjoyed dinner in the Bercy Village which I know became a favourite of many of the travelling contingent.
Saturday morning is always great when it’s match day – we get to meet all the clients travelling with Gullivers, many of whom we have spoken to numerous times throughout the year and many that we haven’t, so it’s great to meet everyone whilst handing out match tickets and share favourite stories of travels and tips on where to go in Paris. The final weekend of a Six Nations tournament also has a special magic with so many memories and famous occasions created in the final games. We joined many of the Welsh fans in a bar close to the Terminus Nord train station to watch the Scotland v Italy game before heading off to the stadium. It was sad to have been following the news on Saturday morning at Paris Orly airport but the police did a fantastic job in the city and everything ran as normal. The Stade de France is a little bit out in the middle of nowhere, but the train system is fantastic and only one stop from the centre of Paris and once you are in the stadium - what a stadium it is! The French anthem with all the Tricolors flying is something to be witnessed. There were a lot of errors in the game and who could have ever foreseen the ending! It’s been a mixed tournament for Wales, some fantastic games and some that they will see as a missed opportunity.
Saturday evening was enjoyed by many, evident even on Sunday when saying goodbye to everyone at the Eurostar check in!
- Ali. R
Possibly the most highly anticipated match of the RBS 6 Nations 2017, Ireland v England turned out to be one of the most important matches of this championship.
With the tournament already in the bag, England needed to travel to Dublin and secure a win for their second RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam in a row and to snatch the world record from New Zealand for the longest winning run of games. But with Dublin one of the most difficult places to play rugby, this would be no easy task…
With such a large number of clients on tour with us for the weekend, all 20 staff were allocated their duties – first up, airport duty! We had a few arrivals on the Thursday, but the majority of clients made their way to Dublin on the Friday to enjoy the long weekend. With all clients arrived and checked in, they then had the evening to enjoy some of the sights, sounds, restaurants and of course pubs which Dublin has to offer.
With the city buzzing for St Patrick’s Day, you could feel the atmosphere beginning to build for the rugby despite the game not being until Saturday evening. Temple Bar was of course a popular spot, however others opted for a quieter evening – most probably saving themselves for match day!
GAME DAY! We rose early on Saturday for match ticket distribution at our hotels, before our pre-match exclusive event, the Gullivers Clubhouse! Held at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, we welcome all our clients from across the city to come and enjoy a free drink, food, big screens for the other games, and of course our customary Q&A prior to the match. We were delighted to welcome Gullivers Rugby Sevens Ambassador, Ollie Phillips, as our host for the event – with former England Internationals Simon Shaw and Ugo Monye on the panel, along with former Ireland flanker David Wallace. The Q&A gave great insight into the upcoming match and saw some interesting predictions by the players, some closer to the outcome than others! Questions from the crowd poured through as well and we were also delighted to announce a fantastic €2,000 for our chosen charity Wooden Spoon. The event was a huge success and clients enjoyed the opportunity to grab pictures with the players as well as the chance to have a chat.
Time for the match – the Aviva 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.
The game started off as expected with Ireland flying out of the blocks. This trend continued as England found it difficult to penetrate the Irish defence and the Irish snuck over for what turned out to be the only try of the game. Half time came and the score was 10-3 to Ireland, with many people in the stadium expecting to see England turn up the pace in the second half of the game as has become customary for them.
This expectation however did not come true and Ireland held strong for the second half, the final score 13-9 to Ireland and England’s Grand Slam and world record dreams smashed.
However both sets of supporters were happy, the Irish with a home win and the English with another championship secured meant that the parties went on late in to the night – a great way to end another fantastic weekend in Dublin!
- Drew. B