An unforgettable day for young Squirrels (and Coaches!)

Drybrook under 11s were invited to play in a curtain raiser game against Colerne Panthers and form a guard of honour for the teams at Twickenham prior to the England v Argentina autumn international, this was made possible by both clubs having pledged to the Old Mutual Wealth Kids First programme which is aimed at putting the Kids First.
It was an early start for the Drybrook players on a cold and wet morning with everybody meeting at the rugby club ready for the bus journey to Twickenham at 8:30, already at this time of the morning you could sense the excitement from the fifteen children who had been lucky enough to be selected to play from a much larger squad with some players unfortunately unable to go with their teammates. As we drew closer to Twickenham and the traffic starting to build up there was the “are we there yet” comments coming from the players and the excitement starting to build even more, The players then had their new shirts which had been kindly donated by Lydbrook Valley Garage passed out ready to put on for when we arrived, when the players were asked who could spot Twickenham first they all started to look out of the windows and then through the houses there it was they could see the corner of the stand protruding high above the houses “its massive” were the comments and “whoa” and that was it they had arrived at the home of English rugby, it did go quiet for mere seconds and then again the excitement erupted even more than before.
Taking the players around the outside of the stadium where they were looking at the tiles of past England players, taking their photos of a place many had never been before we all met at the Lions gate where we also met up with Colerne Panthers and their players also just as excited as Drybrook’s. Photographs were taken of the teams in front of this great entrance where some of the best players in the world had walked through and now these under 11s were going to have that same privilege.
Escorted into the changing rooms the players rehearsed the guard of honour before putting on their boots ready to step inside this great stadium, with both sets of players lining up they then came out of the tunnel onto the pitch where the music was playing and even though not many people were seated in the stands at this time the atmosphere was still there. Walking around the pitch to our playing area even though there was loud music playing all you could hear was the excitement of the players jabbering away to each other and the coaches, what an experience.
Two playing areas were laid out for the teams in front of the east stand where parents and other spectators were stood ready to watch these youngsters play their match at Twickenham. The games commenced, with 5 minutes per session, the games were quick and fast and with some wonderful play from both teams who seemed undeterred to the fact of where they were playing and showed great skills, offloading the ball before the tackle, great passing along the line to find the space enabling tries to be scored quickly which meant that all of the players got to score at Twickenham, a feat that has only been left to the few. For those players who were waiting for their next chance to play they looked up to the big screens where the little matches in front of the east stand were being broadcast live around the stadium, with some of the players also being interviewed. After the games had finished team photos were taken at the corner of the East and South stand before breaking for lunch.
After lunch the teams again practised the guard of honour one final time before they had to do this in front of 82,000 people and millions watching around the world, but before they did this there was a little surprise, a knock on the changing room door and in walked Ugo Monye ex England and British Lion Winger, interacting and asking questions of the players, talking to them about his experiences and how lucky did they feel being at Twickenham today, there were some great responses, Ugo mentioned to the players that they could be shown live on television to which one player asked “can I put wax in my hair to look good on TV” this was met by laughter throughout the changing room and probably lightened the mood before their big moment, with another great photo opportunity both teams gathered together around Ugo and had their photographs taken in the changing room.
It was now time for the guard of honour and there were no signs of nervousness from any of these young players, they lined up in the tunnel and walked out into the stadium in front of a capacity crowd, the England and Argentina players then followed onto the pitch, the Last Post was played and a minutes silence for Armistice day, the teams broke and the guard of honour players returned back through the tunnel into the changing rooms to now quickly collect their belongings and take up their seats ready to watch the international. With all of the players now seated watching the game you could sense that they were still in awe of what they had just done, when asked “what was the best bit of their day” the response from all of the players was “everything”.
After the game there were opportunities for the players to get autographs and photos with the some of the England players, then the journey back to Drybrook on the coach! The players were still reeling from what they had done during the day and were so excited the bus journey home was a memorable one with singing (led by coach Dale Critchley) and fun all the way back.
What an experience these players had today and thanks must go to all of the coaches and committees at Drybrook but also to Tim Holmes from the RFU who arranged and made possible a day that all of those involved will never forget.