It’s an unwritten rule that what goes on tour stays on tour. So, here is the publishable report of what took place on the Montreal Irish Men’s tour to Bermuda.
The last Montreal Irish RFC tour was in 2003 to the UK and we were well overdue for another tour. Throughout the club’s 55 year history, the Montreal Irish have had a strong relationship with the Bermuda rugby union having toured to Bermuda on three separate occasions, and over the last five years, the Montreal Irish have hosted all four of the local Bermudan rugby clubs. So it was decided that the club would tour Bermuda for one week in early November, 2011.
Soon enough we had 34 members committed to the rugby tour with the youngest player being 22 years old and the oldest member being 72 years old. The tour group consisted of 24 current players and 10 Old Boys, including a few Old Boys who played for the Montreal Irish during the last tour to Bermuda in 1987!
We had an amazing week, and we tried to see and do as much as we could in the six days we were there. We visited some of the famous military fortifications on the island, from the Naval Dockyards to the UNESCO World Heritage site at St Georges. Our second to last day in Bermuda was Remembrance Day and as a group we wanted to pay our respect to all the war veterans. The ceremonies were full of military tradition and will be remembered by everyone who was there. We spent some time relaxing on the picturesque beaches, played a couple of rounds of golf, and watched some very entertaining rugby.
We wanted to tour Bermuda for many reasons, but the main reason is that each year since 1988, the island plays host to the World Rugby Classic. The tournament offers spectators an up-close chance to watch ex-international players from eight different teams; Canada, USA, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the British Lions. Not only were we able to watch famous rugby players from around the world, but the intimate nature of the event allowed us to mingle with the players after their games, highlighted by meeting players like Mal O’Kelly, Shane Byrne and Colin Charvis from the British Lions. One of our players, Dave Linard, was actually invited to step on the pitch and play for Australia, where he won the plate final. Congratulations Dave! For us, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that allowed us to do some “hero worshipping” in person. What a week!
Of course it wouldn’t have been much of a rugby tour without playing any rugby, and we had been invited by the Bermuda rugby union to play two games. We strapped on our boots for a game against a combined team of two local rugby clubs, the Mariners RFC and the Bermuda Police RFC. It was a hard fought game but the Montreal Irish came out victorious!
The highlight of the tour, an evening that will never be forgotten by anyone who was there, would be the game against the Bermuda select team. A game which took place Thursday night at the National Stadium, preceding the two quarter finals games of the World Rugby Classic. The vast majority of the Montreal Irish players have never played in a stadium, surrounded by a couple of thousand spectators, so you can imagine it was quite an exhilarating experience for us. After the last whistle blew, we had come up short, but our disappointment was short-lived as we were greeted after the game by the New Zealand All Blacks, who congratulated us on a “very entertaining game of rugby”. Once the post game festivities were over we were then invited in to one of the corporate VIP tents to watch the quarter final games, South Africa vs Argentina and then Australia vs Canada. It was an amazing experience that brings a smile to all of our faces every time we talk about that day
The Montreal Irish would like to thank the Bermuda Rugby Union and John Kane, the organizer of the World Rugby Classic, and all of the club’s sponsors for helping make the Bermuda tour 2011, “the best tour ever”.