The Last Amateur Tour | World Rugby Films

Published by Darron Toy on

it was the last amateur tour that will never ever be repeated again and I was on it we there for a week we have to break the party up for 80 minutes because there was a game to be played we had them run onto the pitch and see a crowd as big as tricking them in the middle of Africa and the stadium half the size of tricking them so people out the floodlights people are on each other's shoulders people are looking at hanging all over the place to watch a game you can understand it was probably gonna be a few people watching this thinking d'Orsay he dare tell that story that you dare mention that looking back I honestly don't know how we got back from that and I don't know how even put the event on in the first place Capetown mother city of a vast gland May the 25th 1995 the start of the most emotional rugby event of all time the Rugby World Cup in South Africa it is my privilege to declare this in 1995 for Rugby World Cup tournament open the 90s will forever be remembered as a time of seismic shifts in the game of rugby union with one of its major powers being welcomed back into the international fold new global superstars emerging in a sport that would soon embrace professionalism and at a tournament which brought people together like never before the embryo of an idea was forming in the best spirit of the game the discovery tour of West Africa was originated at the World Cup final in 1995 I went out to the non-traveling reserve for the World Cup in 95 the World Cup fun I met a guy called Alistair McClelland he was wearing my club colours so I naturally went over and spoke to him the black green and gold of the Saints and when he said that he was living in Africa and was traveling back to Northampton I just agreed to meet him for a coffee World Cup rugby today brings us to rustenberg with its beautiful bush veldt scenery at Nestle's at the foot of the majalis mountains and there we are now at Olympic Park in rustenberg for the scene of this paul d match between Tonga and the Ivory Coast so on to Olympic Park in rustenberg come these two sides I've seen max Brito during the 95 World Cup playing for the Ivory Coast against Tonga so we made the connection what if we could do a summer tour to Ghana play against the Springboks in Ghana and then go to the Ivory Coast to play against the Ivorians with an English 15 that was made up of superstars who became a household legend the game had reached a crossroads with its third world cup bringing new levels of commercial interest and public awareness and historic shift was finally announced there will be no prohibition on payment or the provision of other NGOs to any person involved in the game we suddenly went from being literally amateur rugby players to professional rugby players still training though in 95 96 on a Thursday night and a Tuesday night but I had so much time on my hands so I needed something to do so I had this idea I spoke to some of the players the first players I spoke to from Matt Dawson and Paul Grayson on the back of the bus going to the Premiership game I certainly remember being on the bus and talking about they tour – somewhere in Africa that Harvey had created an idea through his amazing imaginative mind and yeah you're right that's a guy in Africa yeah let's let's do it when do you want us to be there is there any is that freak it yeah we have to pay for flights no we were on it was pros are pretty simple answer and then the next opportunity I have to speak to players was when we were playing for the Midlands in a Midlands game and we're all cooped up in a hotel so I've got people around me like Martin Johnson gar fourth-round tree cockerel Mapple Tim rod burr and I said to them boys if I can get this tour off the ground would you support me and they said absolutely so with my child surveying background I've made them write a letter of intent to say that if you could pull off this game then subject to adequate remuneration we will give you our support and it was those letters that I took to Land Rover to try and get some sponsorship for what then became known as the discovery tour of Ghana and the Ivory Coast 1996 I don't think he's got on the trip if you were not a good tourist I think that was part part of what Harvey wanted he wanted to have a you know a set of boys that really got on well more than off the field I think most of the memorable stories will have the Leicester front row involved in and so they would probably as a group would be my top tourists the quirk of fate England weren't touring in the summer of 1996 they've taught every year since then I phoned and asked both sir to ask him whether he would bring a springbok ID up from South Africa and he agreed to do that so he was willing to give his for support and because he was a household name at that particular point it was just the most unbelievable piece of luck what a absolute fantastic idea and I said no what are you guys looking for and I said now we're looking for a South African team and I thought okay and made quite an effort so we had quite a quite a capable team and everybody everybody bought into the idea he had one phone call with no spacer and he agreed not only to get his players expenses and sponsorship covered he agreed to bring the whole team up next time I saw him other than exchange of emails and fax was literally two days before the international in Ghana in the across national stadium and I will always be beholding to him because for any project or event to work you need someone who's willing to step up to the plate and he was to do that you can see it was stressing Harvey out but he loved it he loved all of that he loved the that the trials and tribulations of trying to organize something for him so far away and with limited resources and with limited contacts and with a government that were proven to be very tricky I think the more adversity you threw at Harvey the better so the final piece of the jigsaw as a man called Herbert Mensa who was mr. Fixit he was the man who actually made it happen on the ground so I fixed it which is one of the things they do fix it he was a friend of Alice McLellan they'd work together in the mobile phone business in Africa I didn't realize what a huge tour-de-force Herbert was Herbert knew rugby players he knew the strength of the squad that we got together and he said leave it with me so we got labardi Beach involved I think that's the airline involved and brought people from all over and then glued it together agreed to underwrite the costs of that initial stuff which allowed us to go to the next stage which is to go to Land Rover and get some money to essentially cover the players expenses I got the footballers involved the great Tony abour other great players and I got all the black footballers from Europe Ibrahim ba Rigobert song all of them to say look come play a match alongside the rugby guys in honor of a guy a fellow sportsmen so we had two rugby games and then we had a Black Stars against a mixed all-stars delivery and it was just out of this world I had to go and do an inspection trip in Ghana and the Ivory Coast to get this tour going and also had to get permission because in those days you could not without a visa fly to Ghana because you weren't allowed in – Ghana we haven't factored that into our equation as we're trying to raise money to go to Ghana Herbert Mensa was able to speak to president Rawlings and also he took me on the inspection trip up to see the king of the Ashanti nation Herbert was the man who made it happen Herbert was the man who made everything on the ground happened there's an expression called Wawa West Africa walls again we never knew what we were letting ourselves in for but it didn't matter because Herbert Mensa was able to provide us with the platform so we could get to Ghana safely and then the Ivory Coast it was a wonderful opportunity for us all to see something that would never ever get to see in our lives again after months of planning and at the end of professional rugby's inaugural season West Africa beckoned for a group of players for whom a tour in the traditional sense of the word would never take place again we arrived in Ghana and the first thing that we did was go to a casino and then we went to a nightclub and then we went to stayed in this five-star hotel could the labardi Beach Hotel following day we got up and we trained there was a tropical rainstorm the day before the international they had fun and they came back and they were gentle chase around and you gotta feed the bull back to here they were larger than man little guardians or people with size 15 boots I think they left an impression on this part of the world Oh considering none of the played before listened to they got good hands and they seem to be join himself so Berlin we had lots of coaching clinics and the boys that weren't able to play in the game like Martin Johnson and Neal back actually were the people that ran those clinics teaching the local kids to play rugby who all then were invited to come to the game the following day it's match day it's hot and humid and kickoff is at two o'clock when the afternoon Sun will be at its most fierce on the day of the international it was a hundred and ten degrees weather-wise who what you know we thought South Africa is nice and warm but that was extremely odd we played this in front of 40,000 people it was the biggest black audience to ever watch a game it was beautiful loud we had gumboot dancers we have people singing anthems we had music and see a crowd as big as twittering in the middle of Africa the Stephen Hart the sizes trickle numbers so people out the floodlights people are on each other's shoulders people are looking at acting all over the place to watch a game people understand it there was just so much atmosphere in that stadium but it was no swinging load was just African songs noise throughout it I wasn't aggressive but it felt quite oppressive cheering and singing going on it was amazing atmosphere very very special when we came to meet the President of Ghana president Rawlings we all stood there as his traditional listening to the national anthems and suddenly out of nowhere came a jet over the Acron national stadium the president arranged for these Air Force Mackey's Italian fighter jets just to enter the stadium between the sticks so they I got a message it was about to happen nobody else did I said to people duck it's a duck because the planes ourselves and then the wings tipped up and they went straight through the stadium and went up to the other Stadium as high as they could and people are wow that just and then one from the other direction and they did a whole little thing you know no you know of Max and that was something else I seem to remember them going completely bonkers for payment sir the the Quinn Center who's on our team was gone in and he was the star of the show on that particular day and so the commentator said that we have one of our own mr. Peter mincer playing in the England side so automatically the crowd were on the side of England yeah over time we've got the whole place it rubbed it and it was so inspirational it was absolutely incredible [Applause] of England I don't even think they had an idea of what a proper act the game is supposed to be but I think at the end day they enjoyed it and it was quite a competitive Camden like a mistake and good quality but he was actually went out to win the game it wasn't a friendly match it started off as a big charity event but at the end 18 minutes was really quite important to both sides and I can always look back nothing 96 actually contributing to England winning the World Cup in 2003 it is always a positive that we can take out of that game I think eight or nine of the squad ended up winning the World Cup in 2003 that's how bizarre this trick was the Springboks ran us ragged but they should have run us ragged with all of the experience they've got but we had younger legs the wins a win let's go on it we did it yeah big lap of one afterwards and we try to sort of interact with everybody and it was an experience we all knew was going to be unique but we didn't necessarily realize that not only would we not get the opportunity to do that again but no one may ever do that again despite all those connected to the tour riding a wave of euphoria having played in front of a record-breaking crowd the tour's focus was never lost and another fundraising opportunity beckoned in the form of a garlic dinner back at the team hotel was present and it was just like you would imagine a banquet to be with an auction and we raised money for max and max was present with his wife I played for the Midland counties along with Dean Harvey and a few of us mark Edwards who now runs a hotel chain in the UK what a special man he provided labardi Beach for us and he helped us with the whole promotion marketing makes getting the expats in and they all came there knowing that they're meeting players that they would never ever meet again the footballers all joined in also the rugby players and them and the footballers were all mixed together and you had pictures with the footballers with Tony a boy who was such a God in the UK at the time you know scoring those magical girls taking pictures with them you know it was it was something that was all very civilized and it needed to be civilized because Max and his family were and we had dignitaries from all over the business community in Ghana but then we went into the body beach hotel there was a piano and Daimon hopefully could play the piano Hopper's saying the hoppers always a good tourist because you know he's going to be playing the piano somewhere so as his traditional with all Rugby trips he played the piano we sang songs until the early hours and then I can't tell you what happened after that because I went to bed very 200% not had ever seen assessors drinkin they either Lord being interlude mean interval I can say I mean one thing I never read they were very now and made sure that I had enough beverages to [Laughter] I would suggest we were drunk or hungover more than we were sober was an amazing club called macumba which any one of the lads will remember the trip if you say McCumber to them they'll have that little sort of shiver of what was up I was trying to forget those days I wanted they were raised from my memory but it was it was an amazingly boozy trip it was the last of those trips and we knew it and we all wanted to make the most of it this tour maybe the last type of tool because our players were under contract now what jumper diving off and getting pissed and so forth because I thought for them to get injured whether this will ever happen again in terms of a you know a non professional enjoyable tool without training I suppose in transform our contenders of there's a lot of money on the show really understanding that they would never get another opportunity to enjoy a tour of this nature in the new professional era they took full advantage of the hospitality that Ghana had to offer organized a garden hospitality two weeks the Volta they ran the beach you know they were teaching little kids how to play rugby they were giving back they were partying you know they were having the time having Brides all over the place you know the English lot were having the time of their life but we were able to also go off to a slave fort in our Mina and the harsh realization of this particular trip was we were there to enjoy ourselves but we were able to see one of the worst atrocities I've ever seen in terms of what happened to people during a slave trade a lot of times when you go on on tools particularly go away with your country you don't really get to do that it's you know trainees back in the hotel its recovery is it's them play again and I think to see a lot of those places and to understand the culture and a bit of the history of those countries the perspective was important because of what we would ultimately try and do for max I guess with the tour's primary focus coming back into view the squad traveled West with one more match set to complete an historic trip the final leg of our 10-day two-week trip was to go to the Ivory Coast it had some amazing buildings had some amazing hotels unfortunately we needed a plane to get there we eventually got to the Cote d'Ivoire about 45 minutes before the International kicked off we're almost like in the dungeons of this national stadium playing against the Ivory Coast and if you think the Ivory Coast had played in the World Cup in 1995 so those guys could play and we've just been on literally five or six days of the rasz and suddenly we're in a game [Applause] [Applause] so much so that Nick Bill got smashed in the eye and that's where you started to realize that many of the players were proper warriors proper rugby players everything changed [Applause] they really wanted to beat us and we were lucky to win that international we did it through blood and guts because they really really work inside [Applause] spread the word if you like about rugby in the fledgling era of professionalism the last great amateur tour had left an indelible mark in Ghana the game is enjoying continued growth under Herbert Mensa who holds the game's core values dear anything isn't it you fight for each other if you play it you have no enemy on your side you enter into a blind alley and you know that there's somebody there to support you you have more energy than somebody else you give back and I think that personifies what happened in terms of people's outpouring of love and respect and help for mags it's not about the game at the end it was all about one person and it shows you that I still believe we did it for the right reasons rugby is a fantastic fraternity and certainly seeing what had happened to Max Lee you know that was them the principal reason why we all wanted to go and you know those opportunities are few and far between I don't think Harvey had any trouble in getting people to agree to come it doesn't matter whether you play for junior club or you play for a senior club there was a sense of camaraderie a sense of values a sense of culture that many sports don't have ever believe is gonna happen because nobody's really done anything quite like I think if we're sitting down with a blank piece of paper now saying right let's organize the trip to garden in the ivory case we wouldn't have even undertaken for me my sport has given me everything I wasn't a household name but I could gather a group of household names together and I feel absolutely honored that I have the opportunity to spend that time with some of the greatest players that probably will ever play the game when you think of those names and what they went on to achieve so that one little trip to Ghana and the Ivory Coast changed my life forever


بك بكب · May 15, 2019 at 10:21 am


Nigel Lee · May 15, 2019 at 10:21 am

Great story but not very clear why they went. It was to raise money for a player, Max Brito, who was paralysed in the World Cup game between Ivory Coast and Tonga. He received very little help from World Rugby and this isn't made very clear with the reasons for the tour left a little vague and only alluded too. Not to detract from a great little film and how the players rally round when the authorities don't. But that's exactly what you expect from rugby players. That's what they do. That's the ethos of this great game.

mo7881 · May 15, 2019 at 10:21 am

Think you mean trip to West Africa

PFuenzalidaRivera · May 15, 2019 at 10:21 am

It could have been interesting to see the list of players involved …
(but it will always be google for that)

Alistair Berchier · May 15, 2019 at 10:21 am

“Game for thugs, played by gentlemen”

Ângelo de Oliveira Santos · May 15, 2019 at 10:21 am


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