Coochie's travellers always have time for Stanley Market visit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 March, 2009, 12:00am

The Sevens is an annual pilgrimage for former England and Bath prop Gareth Chilcott.

'Coochie', as he is more affectionately known, works for rugby tour operator Gullivers and has been heading to Hong Kong for 20 of the 28 years Gullivers has been bringing people to the Sevens.

Gullivers flies busy bankers and lawyers out from the UK on the Thursday night, then has them back in their office (in body, but perhaps not in mind) by Monday morning.

The trip isn't just about rugby for Chilcott - a shopping trip to Stanley Market is a pillar of the weekend.

'I'm not exactly small so every year one of the first things I do before I meet Gullivers' guests is head to my tailor,' says Chilcott, 52. 'Every tour also necessitates a half-day shopping trip for my wife in Stanley. A lot of people on our tours buy presents for wives and girlfriends left behind.

'The great thing about rugby is that it's a fellowship. I don't think you get that with other sports. It's a great leveller. It doesn't matter if you have British Lions players talking to local club players, it's a language they all understand. At the Sevens, solicitors and barristers will rub shoulders with merchant sailors. Everyone at the Sevens is at the same level and it's a place I make lots of new friends every year, and catch up with old ones.'

Chilcott, who won 14 caps for England (1984-89), says the weekend pans out just perfectly for the party-goers. 'The Sevens is addictive. Every person I've hosted for Gullivers at their first Sevens wants to come back for more,' he says.

'The time frame of the Sevens and Hong Kong time is actually one that jetlag helps. When it's 1am, people think it's mid-afternoon and have the energy to party, even if they're trying to jam pack all of the magic of the Sevens into just three days.'

Despite the recession, Gullivers has found sales have been good this year. 'A lot of people won't miss out, and also a lot of people opted for this trip, rather than the more expensive Lions tour to South Africa,' said Chilcott.

'Being on tour at the Sevens with the rugby crowd is almost as hard on the body as that Lions tour in Australia, but I wouldn't miss it for anything.'