After a gruelling day’s training, most rugby players can, depending on their age, be found slumped behind an X-box, sipping coffee in town, or picking the kids up from school. Not many, it’s fair to say, would spend the day shooting. However, when we offered a group of Bath players a morning blasting clays at Barbury Shooting School, there were plenty of volunteers.
And so it was that second row Dave Attwood, wing Tom Biggs and flanker Guy Mercer, along with ex-Bath, England and British Lions player Danny Grewcock, made the short trip up the M4 to Barbury Shooting School to spend the morning aiming for the clays. Arriving with his own gun, it’s fair to say Danny, now academy director at the club, was the most experienced of the group. Dave and Guy had also both shot before, whilst Tom (possibly sporting brand new Wellington boots) had never so much as looked at a shotgun, let alone fired one. There was a slight look of trepidation on his face, not least as he was nursing a rib injury on the day.
Danny Grewcock is an experienced shot who enjoyed the competitive element of the shooting.
Bedecked in a combination of tweed and quilted jackets, the boys arrived at Barbury Shooting School on a sunny morning, ready to see what managing director Huw Stephens and his team had in store. The lads were immediately offered tea, coffee and bacon and egg rolls – always a good way to get rugby players on your side!
A competitive spirit at Barbury Shooting School
After a quick but thorough safety check, Huw led the team to the first stand – a rabbit clay scuttling along the ground in front of them, followed by a left-to-right crosser. With 10 shots each, it was quickly apparent this was going to turn into a competition between the four – surprise, surprise! And there was a slight shocked silence when the first flash clay was eventually hit, resulting in a mini explosion. Guy, the first up to the plate each turn, managed to miss all of the flash clays in his 10 shots, although he did hit six normal clays, much to the amusement of the others.
Tom Biggs had never shot before this day but loved it and is keen to get out shooting more.
With the targets getting harder and faster, the level of competition rose, especially when they were split into two pairs, with a shoot-off forming the final element of the morning. Two stands became the battle ground, with Danny and Tom – the best and, well, worst – facing off against Guy and Dave, the Mr Consistents. This minute-and-a-half long flush saw all four of the guys switching visibly into “game mode”.
Similarities between rugby and shooting
Second up on this final stand, Dave and Guy had to miss no more than seven to win but, with a fair bit of heckling, they missed nine, and victory was with the most and least experienced shooters of the group. “They really got into my head in that final stand,” said Guy afterwards. “It was weird how much focus you lose, as I couldn’t differentiate between Dave’s useful chat and Danny and Tom’s attempts to put us off!
“The concentration levels you need, especially when you have multiple targets coming at you and you’re working alongside someone else, are actually pretty similar to what you need on the rugby field. Even when you’re training, you need to be constantly aware of where both the opposition and your own team-mates are, what they’re doing now, and predicting their next move.”
Happy days on the clays at Barbury Shooting School
“Whilst you need to completely focus, like you do in rugby, it was great to get away have something different to think about,” added Dave. “It’s so far removed from what we normally do with our time off – I’ve been renovating my house for example, but this is a far better craic! Being a rugby player is great, but you do need a break, so to escape to somewhere like Barbury Shooting School, which is a fantastic set-up, has been brilliant.”
Danny Grewcock (left), Dave Attwood, Guy Mercer, Tom Biggs & Huw Stephens (Barbury Shooting School MD).
As for Tom, the complete novice in the group: “I really enjoyed it. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but Huw was really good in explaining it all. I think there’s some chat now about arranging some more days like this, or perhaps even shooting at Farleigh House (Bath’s training ground, which is set in 140 acres of Wiltshire countryside) and I’d love to have another go.”