The Blues Rugby squad met at the beginning of September for a week of training in Oxford prior to a trial game against Henley Hawks. A two-week tour to America followed, with periods spent in New York and at a training camp based at Penn State University. The benefit of the tough summer programmes provided by Strength and Conditioning coach Tom Tombleson was immediately obvious, as was effort put in by players in other areas to improve their performance off the field this year. Johnny Chance’s intensive humour training has seen him rocket up the banter stakes to the point where he is considered ‘quite funny,’ an improvement on ‘nice’ and now our physio Cath even knows his name. Bertie Payne has obviously been taking singing lessons, although forgot to supplement them with work on his French accent while Olly Tomaszczyk has been doing a part-time sports science course. Dan Rosen’s new techniques for sleep deprivation of others, perfected on poor innocent rats over summer, showed impressive improvement and TT has been working on his personal pronouns. Winston Cowie has, needless to say, been boozing.As well as a great opportunity to put in some hard training without the various distractions of term time in Oxford, the tour was invaluable in getting to know new players, and was successful to the extent that boundaries were quickly blurred with distinctions between old and new all but disappearing. How did we previously survive without Stu ‘The King’ O’Flanagan’s private detective skills? Without Tom Gregory’s choreography? Without Ricky Lutton’s 24 hour on-call fire service? Without the spiritual guidance and problem-solving of our two agony aunts, Jacko and Rupert Allhusen? I could go on. Back in Oxford, the training regime necessarily slackens somewhat due to other commitments on players’ time, but the competition for places has ensured a continued intensity at all sessions, which in turn has led to convincing wins in our first two home games. As we enter a run of Monday evening fixtures, the squad is in good shape for the challenges ahead, which will culminate, of course, in the Varsity Match at Twickenham on 6th December.