Rugby classics in exotic locations

Phil Dollman

Phil Dollman - Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Annoyingly, I’ve crossed over into the age category where you are considered a classic, or a veteran of the game of rugby, the 35+ group.  

But one great perk of this stage of an ex-rugby player’s life is the opportunity to be invited to play in the classic rugby circuit, places like Dubai and Bermuda, are tasty trips to get involved with at amazing locations. 

My first taste of the classic rugby game was with the Lions Legends at the 33rd Bermuda World Rugby Classic, a real chore, travelling to such a beautiful Island! Not quite knowing what to expect and whether or not the trip would have been allowed due to changing restrictions, it was a weird time leading up to it.  

Needless to say, all of my expectations were blown out of the water, 25-30 degree temperatures with some of the best beaches in the world, the rugby almost became a side note, until we actually hit the pitch for our first game. The opposition soon brought myself and the team back down to earth. 

To say it was more physical than I expected is a huge understatement. The French Classic team had been out in Bermuda for a week before the start of the tournament, training regularly, and clearly very focused on winning the tournament. 

It was very clear from minute one at the first ruck when an old-fashioned brawl kicked off. Luckily, playing at full-back meant I was able to observe form a safe distance as a few fists windmilled until it all fizzled out.  

A fairly substantial loss followed those early exchange to the eventual winners of the tournament but, by the second and third fixtures of the trip, we had found our feet running out comfortable winners versus the Canadians, and a young Bermuda National side. Playing what I would like to consider, proper classics rugby, very little set piece and breakdown focus allows the side with possession to dictate in attack. 

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The highlight of the trip for me has to be the fantastic hosts we had in Dave and Sue, Scottish expatriates that have lived on the island for 50 years. The hospitality we received from them was fantastic.  

Dave would show off his culinary skills daily and the pair gave a great inside scoop on what to see and where to visit. Dave’s legendary pancakes and French toast went down a storm with us, and as hosts, they really made the experience of Bermuda the best we could have had. 

It was great to chat with Dave and Sue about the legends of the game that had taken part in the classics, such as JPR, Campese, Shane Williams and even Willie John McBride. A tournament with such rich history, played by some of the best players to grace the game. Although it was a few teams short of what it normally looks like, it was fantastic to get the opportunity to represent the Lions Legends. 

It was also lovely to get a winter break and some much-needed sunshine, but it was straight back to the day job and back to the Sidmouth training session this week. A hard fought draw away to Bridgewater, coached by my mate Carl Rimmer, so no bragging rights won or lost.  

We have some huge games in the build up to Christmas, with Chew Valley and a local derby against Crediton in the coming weeks. We’ll be looking to pick up as many points as possible to lead in to the final stretch of the season. 

Not sure how many years of rugby I have left in the legs, but while I am still fairly healthy and pain-free, I’ll enjoy my rugby with Sidmouth and any chance to enjoy the odd trip to beautiful places around the world, mixed with a dose of good rugby, why not? 

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