Following their participation in the Wellington International Festival in April, a squad of 30 under-17 players was selected for the annual training camp in Valladolid, Spain during the first two weeks of July.
This is the fourth time the age group has travelled to Valladolid and this year's camp will include two training matches against Spanish opposition.
Catch up with what's happening in camp with the players' blog, kicking off on 1 July, day one...
Thursday 1 July
We all met at Edinburgh Airport at 7.00am. The weather was dull and rainy and we were all looking forward to getting some Spanish sun. We were due to fly out of Edinburgh at 0910 but were delayed so when we reached London we had to dash for our connection to Madrid. We had a good flight to Madrid everyone was sleepy and feeling the effects of the early morning. When we landed we had a two-hour bus journey to Valladolid and everybody was relieved when we arrived at the hotel. The weather was nice and the hotel something else! We had a pool recovery session, dinner then bed. First day over.
Friday 2 July
We were up at 8 and had a good scran at breakfast. We started off with a heavy weights session, going at it intensely. We all felt that this went well and that we could build on our strength and conditioning in the weeks to come. After a quick pool recovery and lunch we had our first siesta period, shortly followed by our first training session. The bus picked us up outside the hotel and we arrived at the grounds at Zaratan in under 15 minutes. We changed into our training gear in sheds which had been set aside for us, The training was intense despite being non-contact. We thought that it was a beneficial session where we learned the basic key national themes. Towards the end of the session we were caught up in thunder and lightening which meant we had to adapt our training session pretty speedily.
After dinner, we had a team meeting and most played ping pong and a few played cards before bed.
Saturday 3 July
Today started in the same way as the previous day but with a twist – we had the first victims of a slept-through alarm in the form of a fair haired pair of players. This was swiftly resolved and led to breakfast followed by the three gym groups. After yesterday’s efforts the emphasis on weights decreased and the focus was on technique. After the gym session, pool recovery followed which involved a small challenge highlighting the lung ability (or inability in some cases!) Once lunch was done and dusted it was siesta time. The bus journey to the training ground was like a sauna and a preview for the day’s 30 degree session which was based around the roles during an attacking movement and the skills required to perform successfully in attack. The team meeting after dinner was used to analyse the first two sessions. Also, at every available moment, the table tennis table skills of the squad were shown through 20-man games of table tennis.
Sunday 4 July
This was to be our first day of double rugby, with the morning session focusing on the breakdown area, more specifically body position going into contact. This proved to be a hard yet valuable session, with much technical improvement made despite being hit with the first two injuries of the camp. Unsurprisingly, these were both backs! We then split into forwards and backs to focus on unit skills; the forwards improving scrum technique and processes whilst the backs ran moves and played through phases. We then retired to the hotel for pool recovery, lunch and much needed siesta before heading back to the training pitch for more work on contact. Throughout this session, we put the different aspects of 4 v 2 and contact skills together, to play through more phases. We finished up with team plays from scrums, allowing us to provide a structure to our play. At this point, we returned once more to the hotel for another pool session, followed by our evening meal. The day was finished off in the usual style with a team meeting, to revisit the main points of the previous sessions, and plan for the day ahead.
Monday 5 July
Today began with an optional breakfast which allowed for a well deserved long lie. After this we had the choice of “chillaxing” in the hotel or going into Valladolid city. The city seemed very modern even though it was established in 1074. Streets lined with cafes, shops and high office blocks and filled with locals who were more than happy to welcome us into the area. On return to the hotel we had lunch and then it was time for siesta. After siesta we headed to the training ground where we worked on our team structure and support lines for offloading, finishing up with a 15-on-15 match trying to establish a game shape. This was all done in preparation for our hit out tomorrow (Tuesday). Once we got back to the hotel we had our evening meal then team meeting, in which we analysed the data collected on our work rate through the use of heart rate monitors. We were then bed-bound for a long day tomorrow, starting off with an early morning speed session.
Tuesday 6 July
We were joined today by Martin Hastie, Video Analyst supreme. Today was also our first hit-out against a Spanish regional side which gave us a chance to put into practice what we had learnt in prior sessions.
The build up to the match consisted of a speed development session at the local University track in Valladolid with the forwards doing some acceleration work on lineout strategies and the backs some moves. We then had a pool recovery session. We had to wear swim caps. Yeugh!
After the training we headed back to the hotel for lunch and a siesta before the match against a local side.
We played 3 x 20 minute sessions to give all players equal game time and won by eight tries to three after a scrappy performance, although we did manage to show some positive steps.
Overall the day was enjoyable but we also had a wake-up call – our next match against Spain under-19s could be a lot tougher that we anticipated!
Wednesday 7 July
Today was relaxation day after our game yesterday. Breakfast was optional, so we had the choice of a long lie if we wanted. After that, we had pool recovery which involved static stretching followed by an ice bath.
The rest of the day was ours to do what chose, with the option of going into Valladolid. Later on, some of us played cards or table tennis and others watched Spain beat Germany at football.
Thursday 8 July
Today was rugby-free day and the day of our cultural visit to the ancient university town of Salamanca, 120km from Valladolid, and also 120km from Portugal, where we spent six hours enjoying the amenities of the city. There is a variety of shops and restaurants and we enjoyed a cold drink and tapas in the 'Holy Cross'. We also had time to appreciate the beauty of the ancient cathedral, churches and other historic buildings and Pedro, our tour guide, was able to provide us with many interesting facts about these monuments built from fragile sandstone. Under the cathedral there is a graveyard where rich and poor, kings and tradesmen are buried side by side. One of the most striking parts of Salamanca is the Plaza Mayor where you can relax and enjoy a cool drink or a coffee in beautiful surroundings.
The day was incredibly hot – the newspapers claim it was the hottest day of the year so far at around 40°C, so after lunch at El Bardo next to the library, we did a little shopping and headed back to Valladolid.
On the coach Jules, our physio, ran a quiz based on facts about the management team – who has an identical twin brother? who was born in Africa and educated by nuns? Needless to say, scores were low but much sought-after bags of sweets were awarded to the winners!
Once back at the hotel we continued with our prestigious table tennis tournament. Things are really hotting up now, so more on this in our next report.
Friday 9 July
An early start for us today in Valladolid before a hard day's training. We had two rest days previous to today and nneeded to start where we left off on the training pitch.
The morning session consisted of speed work with both forwards and backs before a gruelling fitness test to calculate maximum heart rates. The results would be used later to guage the work intensity of players and catch any slackers in the camp! To finish the session we played a 10-a-sidetouch game which kept us working hard. The session was productive for both coaches and players as we had worked hard during the demanding drills and game shape started to become evident, even when we were exhausted.
For recovery, we crossed the road to the local outdoor swimming pool to get rid of our heavy legs and, to our delight, a short sunbathing session until it was time to go for lunch.
After we had eaten we put our feet up for a siesta before finding ourselves back on the team bus. The afternoontraining session was held at an impressive new venue in the affluent suburb of Arroyo. Alex Duncan, the Scotland under-18 backs coach had arrived at lunchtime and was involved straight away in training by taking the half backs for specialist coaching during the warm-up. The session consisted of a channel offload drill then forwards and backs split to concentrate on different aspects. Training finished with a bit of game shape and patterns of play.
Overall, the coaching staff were pleased with our work rate during training and this had a positive effect on the rest of the day. The players were upbeat due to the hard shift they had put in and the positive feedback received. We're all looking forward to tomorrow and the game on Monday, which will be a tough test for us.
Saturday 10 July
Had an early start after a tiring day yesterday, with double rugby and a beasting fitness session - feeling drained. The usual breakfast, followed by a gym session - judging by the previous groups staggering back into the room, it looked like another killer session. Crawled out of the gym an hour later into the swimming pool for recovery, then with protein shake in hand fell into bed after painfest!
Siesta was spent sprawled out on the bed, sleeping and getting a much-needed rest. It didn't seem the hottest of days this morning but the sun was rising and by siesta it was scorching down. Siesta was vital to recovery because we were training yet again in the region of the high 30s. Training went well in the soaring heat at our new venue - hydration is key. Litres of water, ice towels and ice buckets were essential. Training was followed by pool recovery, where a 'friendly' game of water polo took place. Dinner was pleasant with many steak baguettes being made.
Bed was at 11 o'clock - snazzy pink earplugs in as there was a wedding party downstairs in the hotel. The dreams began into the night. The 8.15am rise led to the smell of the croissants enticing us in for our forst meal of the day. Sunday morning was ours to rest up and recover for the game on Monday.
Sunday 11 July
We had a late start today with breakfast moved back to 9.30am as the morning was dedicated to rest. In this time we either stayed in our rooms and rested or chilled out in the team room playing table tennis. Lunch was also moved to 12.45 so that our training session could be held earlier and the bus driver could get back home to watch Spain play in the World Cup Final.
Our training session was shortened to an hour and consisted of backs and forwards splitting and running through set play in different areas of the park and in different situations that might occur.
On return to the hotel the whole team entered the spirit of the World Cup - in particular our strength & conditioning coach, David Hughes, who wore an eye catching red t-shirt. We then headed for dinner, followed immediately by the Netherlands v Spain World Cup Final which we watched in the team room together. However, we had our own development game against Spain tomorrow on our minds, so it was a quick team meeting then bed to sleep, in preparation for the big day ahead, while Spain partied.
Monday 12 July
Today was the second last day of our tour in Valladolid and we kicked off with breakfast at the slightly earlier time of half eight. Following breakfast the scheduled strength and conditioning session was replaced with extra rugby so that we could go over our different plays for our development game against Spain U19 which was to be played in three 25 minuted periods. After the training session we travelled back to the hotel for lunch at 2.00pm After lunch we had a siesta, which everyone is growing to enjoy, and at 4.30pm it was time for our carbohydrate-loaded pre-match meal.
We had an hour or so to relax before our team meeting and getting on the bus to the University where the game would kick off at 7.30pm. It was a good opportunity to put what we had learned into a positive competition environment, and we won 42-22.
Post-match we had a short debrief then all got changed and it was onto the bus to Valladolid Rugby Club in the centre of town where our hosts had put on food and drinks for us. We used this time to show off our little Spanish while we socialised with the opposition - lucky for us most of the Spanish players had very good English.
Wednesday 14 July
The last day of the visit arrived. We were up at 8am for breakfast and the final packing of our bags.
At 9am we all met in the team room for the last time, and some even managed a final game of table tennis, before we all assisted in moving the 25 bags of kit to the bus, then returned to collect our own bags.
The bus left at 9.30am and drove us to Madrid Airport, where we all managed to book in, relatively easily, and make our way to the departure gate, where we discovered that our flight to Heathrow was delayed for at least 45 minutes.
Eventually we boarded and the flight left for Heathrow. The only problem now was, did we have enough time on our arrival there to catch our connecting flight to Edinburgh. We arrived safely at Terminal 3 and began to make our way to Terminal 5. En route we said good bye to the three Exiles who are based in the South of England.
After going through ANOTHER security check we managed to arrive at our departure gate just as the call to board was made.
Our arrival at Edinburgh was in contrast to the weather we left behind in Spain. It was pouring rain and blowing a gale. On disembarking from the plane we made our way to collect the kit bags and also our own bags. However we eventually learned that none were on the flight and we left the airport, hoping that no one opened any of our own bags, which contained all our dirty washing!!!!
All squad members hope that the experience gained during the last two weeks will benefit them on the rugby field, during the forthcoming under-18 season.