Topsy Ojo column: Why London Irish are cut above restBy Topsy Ojo
August 03, 2012
Well I can safely say that I’m glad to be back home and sleeping in my own bed.
After a week in the care of the army you learn to appreciate the little things – even something as simple as a bed big enough to fit in.
I think this was all part of the reason why we headed down to ATR Winchester for our annual training camp.
While the main aim was to prepare ourselves for the upcoming pre-season games as we get closer to the start of the Aviva Premiership season, underneath it, the goal was to take things back to basics.
As a new group of players this season, one of the key things will be getting all the new combinations to gel as quickly as possible.
There is no better place to learn about teamwork and discipline than in the army, as we all found out first hand.
Seeing recruits as young as 16 turning up for their 12-week phase one training in Winchester puts things in perspective, as does hearing all the stories about various campaigns going on around the world.
Some of the stories from Afghanistan were simply mind-blowing and a true testament to the unbelievable work our soldiers do on the front line.
The guys were genuinely in awe of some of the situations our corporals found themselves in.
As for the camp itself, it was great to put in a lot of work on and off the rugby pitch.
Mornings were our usual training sessions – afternoons were all about the army.
From shooting live rounds (top marksman a certain Chris Hala’ufia), to building two-man bashas to sleeping outdoors, we tried to condense a few weeks training into five days.
We even took turns on sentry duty throughout the night, just as a glimpse into what life on a campaign might be like.
Being woken up to evacuate at 5am was definitely a shock to the system, as was eating a mushroom omelette out of a sachet.
It was surprisingly tasty!
Now rugby players are meant to be tough, physically imposing specimens.
However, attach them to a rope and strand them 15 to 20ft in the air and you’ll see a completely different side to them!
There was no funnier sight than seeing Matt Garvey close to panic as he was being lowered from the high-rise platform.
Never seen someone so happy to be on solid ground.
The final day was all about time trials on the assault course and stretcher run (getting an injured person to medical).
Getting over the 10ft wall was a bit tricky for some more than others, I’m sure you can guess those who might have had a bit of trouble . . .
All in all we had a great week and can hopefully take a lot of what we learnt into the new season.
Special thanks to Captain Cameron Hastie and all his team, with special mention to Corporal Dan Currie for looking after 2 squadron.
We’re back in action tonight in the JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s finals at The Rec in Bath – hopefully we can pick up an early bit of silverware!
Also keep an eye out for some of the players/staff sporting slightly scalped hairstyles.
Fitness games are always more interesting when there’s something on the line . . .
Follow London Irish on Facebook or twitter and myself @topsy_ojo and you might get a sneak preview!