Monday 26 September 2016

RWC Ultimate Travel Guide: Following the other games ...

Conor O'Shea on London

Conor O'Shea

Published 17/04/2015 | 02:30

Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea
Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea
The Cabbage Patch, London
Niall Woods
The Sun Inn, Richmond
Exeter Chiefs star Jerry Sexton
Tomás O'Leary
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Conor O'Shea's London

Conor O'Shea is director of rugby at Harlequins. A former Ireland full-back, he also played with, captained and served as director of rugby and MD with London Irish. He is a rugby columnist with the Sunday Independent.

Where's the best big-game atmosphere?

If you want to get the most of the match atmosphere around Twickenham, stick to the area - don't go into central London. If you do that, you'll get the vibe of London, which is great, and there will be Fan Zones, but you'll miss the unique match-day atmosphere. So my advice is very much to stay local in SW London.

Got a pub recommendation?

Yep. The Cabbage Patch (cabbagepatch.co.uk) in Twickenham. Is it a slick, slinky London pub? No. But it is a rugby pub. There's a good beer and a bite to be had there, and you'll have the atmosphere. It's got a garden, a sports bar. Harlequins train down the road and it's just a stone's throw from the venue.

What about Richmond?

The Sun Inn (suninnrichmond.co.uk) is renowned as a rugby pub. It's just opposite the rugby club, and you can soak up the atmosphere of Richmond by the river. Sip a pint in front of the water there, with a bit of warm weather in September or October, and you're all set. You'll be sardined in there on match day, but if you don't bump into Jason Leonard, it will be a surprise! The food in The Sun is great, too. It's not nouvelle cuisine, but it's really good, and it won't cost and arm and a leg.

Any travel tips?

To get to Twickenham, go to Waterloo and get the train straight to Richmond or Twickenham. The train is always jammed, but that's all part of it. You could drive to within a three or four-mile walk. If you want to push the boat out, go to Twickenham's West car park and enjoy a picnic there. It's a real rugby tradition in England. You get up early, bring your own picnic and enjoy it.

Niall Woods' London

Niall Woods is MD of sports management agency Navy Blue. He played rugby for Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and Harlequins among others.

Any tips for the big-game atmosphere?

If you're going to a game in Twickenham, and you want to avoid the rugby pubs, head into Richmond. It's about two miles from the stadium, and it's more picturesque. The Pitcher and Piano pub (pitcherandpiano.com) has good food and a patio beer garden. On match days it does stuff like a pork roll with a pint for around £9/€12.

Anywhere for a quick bite?

There's a Whole Foods deli (wholefoodsmarket.com) about halfway down George Street - just about 300 yards from the Richmond Tube station. It has everything from sushi to a good plain roast chicken sandwich, noodles, juices, coffees and teas. You can eat in, take out, or sit outside. It's good for a quick fix.

What about the Sun Inn?

That's a good Richmond rugby pub (­suninnrichmond.co.uk). It's like a smaller, old man's pub - but there's a good atmosphere. It's a real English pub. We would have gone there after games a lot at London Irish and Harlequins. You can stand outside - it's a quiet street and a relaxed environment. You can get Heineken on tap now too, which is great.

Any travel tips?

Yes - be careful about driving in London. There's a congestion charge (tfl.gov.uk), and if you're in a rental car and you drive into the city centre, you have to pay the charge (£11.50/€15.75 per day). If you don't pay, you get heavily fined. I did it before. I borrowed a friend's car, and got fined £80/€110. Ouch!

Getting around is expensive, there's no doubt about that - especially in black cabs. If you're taking the Tube or bus, you'll need an Oyster card, which you can top up like the Leap Card in Dublin. You can't just hop on the bus and pay in cash. They have London Bikes now too (tfl.gov.uk; £2 for 24 hours), so if you even vaguely know your way around London, that's a good option.

Any must-see attractions?

Windsor Castle (royalcollection.org.uk) is about 20 or 30 minutes out of SW London. It's pretty straightforward - a lot of the times, the flight path over Heathrow sticks out for me because of that. Staines is down the road too, for Ali G fans! The London Eye (londoneye.com; £29.95/€41) is just amazing - you get up to a super height, and really see the size of the city. It's really good.

Tomás O'Leary's London

The Cork-born Ireland international got to know the capital well during his time at London Irish

Your top tip for a coffee fix?

Butter Beans Cafe (facebook.com/butterbeansrichmond) does the best coffee in Richmond. It's a great little café run by a Kiwi girl next to Richmond station. Grab a cuppa here, or bring a takeaway into Richmond Park. It's the biggest of London's Royal Parks and well worth a look - on foot or by bike.

Anywhere worth a splash?

Try Gaucho (gauchorestaurants.co.uk). It's an ­Argentine steak restaurant on the river in ­Richmond. Expensive, but worth it! You can splash on some really good rib-eyes or fillets, but they do a two-course lunch for £23/€31.50 too. The Burger & Lobster restaurants (burgerandlobster.com) in London are another good bet. Try the lobster roll here - it's got lobster with a Japanese mayo served on a brioche bun, and it comes with fries and salad for £20/€27.40.

What pubs do you recommend?

The White Swan (whiteswanrichmond.co.uk) has lots of atmosphere too. It dates from 1777; they show games on a big screen, and they generally do BBQs on match days. There's free Wi-Fi too.

Any must-sees in London?

Hit the West End and grab a show. The ­Commitments (thecommitments.london) is great craic - it's on at The Palace. Or the Jersey Boys (jerseyboyslondon.com). Even if you don't go to the theatre, a stroll around the area (Leicester Square, Soho, Piccadilly Circus and so on) gives a great London buzz. The Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk) always has cool exhibitions, so it's worth a visit too. Just don't show up at peak hours on weekends. The queues can be up to an hour long.

Irish Independent

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