Rugby touring: It’s time to get back to traditions on a road trip around the USA’s Deep South

Jun 25, 2015


Creole Queen

To define the term ‘tour’ is to first appreciate its heritage. To tour: to visit. To explore? Break new ground, meet new people and discover new hotspots. Its closest colloquialism perhaps being a road trip.

On that note, is there a better way to wind your way through new pastures than via bus? Stopping for photos, taking in sights along the way, going at your own pace in tandem with your stomach and its desires to sample local delicacies. That chance encounter with local wildlife in the back of beyond that could have only happened when getting there on your own private charter, thus creating memories that are laughed at for years ahead.

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The stunning New Orleans & the Superdome at night

Have we become a little lazy in our travelling? Perhaps reliant on internet browsing or apps to shortcut our experiences? After experiencing the delights of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia first hand I can only recommend that these states are sampled in part via bus to absorb their breath taking environs.

Deep South Map

Despite online research and development, nothing prepared me for the green pastures and rolling hills of Tennessee, particularly heading south between Nashville and Atlanta. That particular journey took in the sights of Lynchburg, home to the famous Jack Daniel’s distillery where every drop of this renowned Tennessee whiskey is produced. Located in Moore County, ironically a ‘dry’ state to its residents, its free and enlightening 75-minute production tour was a highlight of the trip. Bracketed with San Francisco’s Alcatraz, New York’s Rockefeller Center and Washington DC’s White House, an injustice will be served if you do not make the 74-mile pilgrimage to this unique and rural town from your Nashville base.

Through meetings with USA Rugby personnel and regional ambassadors of the game, my trip objective was met after the opening few days. The aim? To ascertain whether America’s Deep South had the infrastructure, network and playing personnel to host touring UK schools playing to a competitive standard.  

Having watched matches involving Tennessee and Louisiana high schools, I quickly observed three points:

  1. Talent: individually, each team had a minimum of three players that demonstrated outstanding core skills and individual flair to compete competitively at their age-specific UK County level.
  2. Organisation: despite each student possessing only 2.5 years’ rugby playing experience there appeared a high level of positional and cohesive organisation that projected positively for future years.
  3. Commitment: geographically, players had travelled for over 2 hours each way to compete in this coordinated ‘scrimmage’, each aiming to be recognised for a spot on the state’s All-Star team.
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The iconic Beale Street – Downtown Memphis

The Deep South will not offer school opposition to compete with the likes of South Africa or the Antipodes. What we can do, however, is produce All-Star, state or regional XV’s to match our touring opposition during February half term, Easter and Whitsun. Tours are not available during the summer in line with the hosts’ season. It’s worth noting that Bridgend College, a household name in Welsh rugby, recently struggled to a last minute victory against their Mid-Tennessee counterparts on a recent tour in May 2015.

Schools and districts are working with us throughout Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee to provide billeting programmes that allow our tourists to enhance their cultural experiences. Whilst helping keep costs down, homestays also provide a little respite for accompanying teaching staff who will be accommodated separately in hotels for any two-night billeting increments.

Sightseeing and attractions

Rugby aside, the cities of Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans are culturally rich and teeming with educational activities and excursions. So much so that our 11-day featured itinerary contains the following as standard:

New Orleans: Bayou Swamp Tour, Plantation Tour, Voodoo Cemetery Tour and The French Quarter
Memphis: Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, live baseball & National Civil Rights Museum 
Nashville: Johnny Cash Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame and LP Field – home of the Tennessee Titans

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Plantation Tour

Our hotels

We have all the recognised hotel chains available following our recent inspection of 21 properties on The Deep South circuit. Audited to The School Travel Forum standards, select from Marriott, Holiday Inn or Drury Inn properties that have all been inspected by our qualified safety staff.

Tours can be tailored to your exact needs and include all or partial sections of our Deep South programme. Contact Rayburn Tours for prices and information on your school’s next school sports tour to the USA.

Want to find out more about the incredible Deep South? Visit our destination page for more information.