As an experienced rugby tour organiser I am usually given the arduous task of finding a suitable rugby tournament for the traditional end of season tour. We alternate between one at home and then a tour abroad and so forth. The lads have high expectations and want the full on team tour with a little rugby thrown in for good measure and in the past this has proven to be somewhat tricky in trying to satisfy and meet the so called for high expectations until I came across the Krakow Rugby Festival, I watched the video films and scoured their Facebook and Twitter pages then asked for the info pack.
One of the features that at first I was sceptical about was that they offered unlimited beer and cider during the entire weekend. If this was true the lads would definitely go for it, so I contacted the organiser to get the details on it as we have been disappointed with the beer availability in previous similar offers and, yes, it was confirmed, unlimited beer n cider with the exception of Saturday night after 6pm but Friday night, all day Saturday and all day and night Sunday as much as anyone can drink. I then started to think seriously about making arrangements to participate, we held the club meeting to vote on where to go for our end of season bash. The decision was unanimous, Krakow it is. I must add that it wasn’t only the beer thing that convinced everyone the KRF organisers offer the complete package with accommodation in the city centre, airport and pitch transfers and all meals. The weekend starts with an induction greet & meet party on the Friday, Saturday the qualifying matches and the Sunday all the finals plus an evening Gala Dinner. This was a winning formula for us and I started taking names and organising a payment collection. To my surprise the organisers only required a £50 deposit to register our team even though it was only October and the tournament was 9 months away set to begin in the 3rd week of June the following year. Naturally, after the initial decision to join the KRF like a pregnancy everything went quiet for a while apart from email updates from time to time and booking the flights which was the only personal organising I had to do as the KRF set up provided everything else for us which was a great help to me as the club tour manager as I only had to look after my lads and liaise with one KRF contact, no stress and unlimited beer, this was in my mind looking to be one of my best tours ever and we still have months to go.
So, we have landed in Krakow and a very amiable smiling rep from the KRF is there to greet us and we board the minibuses which whisk us away to the accommodation. It’s 2pm on the Friday and we check in to our accommodation just off the main square. So far so good, the rooms are comfortable and clean plus the garden bar and even a cellar to which we were given a welcoming drink. We spent the afternoon on the square which is massive and surrounded by bars, cafes and restaurants all with outdoor seating too. Our guide told us she would be back later to escort us to the KRF Opening Party. The venue was a private KRF participants meet up and to kick the evening off we were treated to a flaming vodka shot and the bar staff were continually pulling pints and filling beer jugs all freely available to chug at leisure. As we mingled with the other teams in the tournament some of which were in fancy dress the evening continued with dancing, drinking games, a live band and to finish they got the Karaoke going. It was weird seeing the refs dancing with no shirts on I was also wondering how some of my boys were going to feel in the morning, however, the induction KRF party set the tone for what was to come.
Saturday morning I was rounding up the lads to be in time for the bus to take us to the pitch, luckily, the KRF organisers had a huge BBQ smoker train pitch-side and breakfast was already cooking when we got to Juvenia Krakow’s stadium. The team captains were called to collect the food and beer identifier bracelets for their teams and the match schedule was given as well as personal changing rooms and we also had a team tent pitch-side. Amazingly, the refs looked fresh as daisies and whistled to alert the start of the first match. In the meantime a superb bbq breakfast was being served and the 2 beer & cider bars were officially opened. The matches alternated between men and women and you could see the standard was competitive but also with an element of fun as there was a huge tarpaulin under the posts creating a water slide. The KRF MC was always urging to do a slider try upon which the scorer received a pint to drink. We had 2 teams as our squad was quite big by the time lunch was ready we were glad that we had lots of players to fill in as some of the lads went mental with the unlimited beer thing. However, we got through the day’s play and by 6pm we were on the way back to our accommodation, happy. The evening was a free one but the KRF team did organise a pub crawl to join and they also gave us free tickets for dance clubs in Krakow.
Sunday, usually, a day of rest but not for us, once again the task of getting the lads out of bed to not miss the bus ride down to the pitch. Pitch-side breakfast and finals day! A new entry was the massage tent with 2 stunning masseurs, that proved to be popular with many. We reached the semi-finals with one of our teams and won the KRF Elite 10s trophy and Best Drinkers cup which didn’t surprise me one bit. I really enjoyed the Stretcher Race game which involved vodka, gherkins, beer and running with a bloke on a stretcher. The Drop Kick the Bucket competition was a great laugh too. At one point there was a naked bicycle rider who attempted the by now infamous slider try on it and one ref swapped shirts with a player to also get one. A great moment for us when one of our retired club members went on to play and was given the chance to score a slider try, I was a bit emotional too. A team from Scotland were crowned KRF Champions with the local Juvenia women’s team winning the title of KRF Champions. After the awards ceremony there was a live band belting out some tunes and the beer flowed to no end. However, just when you think it is all over, no, back to the accommodation to freshen up for the KRF Grand Gala Dinner, another session to go.
The Gala Dinner was in an exclusive restaurant and some teams present initiated their newbies to touring, excruciating stuff but normal practice by rugby standards. Every team brought something to auction on behalf of the KRF Charity Foundation and the beer n cider was ever present and freely flowing. I can say that my club have given me ‘Legend’ status as the Krakow Rugby Festival (https://polandrugbyfestival.com/ ) is the most entertaining and best rugby festivals I have ever organised and we will certainly be returning to Krakow and its tournament. Wow and thanks to the organisers who went above and beyond to make sure the weekend was great fun for everyone.