From Supporter in Japan to Team MSG

Mark GardnerAfrica, Blog, France, Inspection Trip, Japan, RWC 2023, South Africa, Supporters Tours

Matt Davies Supporter in Japan

From Supporter in Japan to Staff in South Africa

It is almost a year to the day that Matt ‘The Energy’ Davies joined the team. He takes you on his unique journey as a supporter on tour with us in Japan to a member of staff with MSG.

A year ago, I received a phone call from Mark about the possibility of joining the MSG team in the company’s brand-new Welsh office to work on the upcoming Supporters’ Projects. Travel and sport are two of my biggest passions so there wasn’t much thinking to do and I accepted the role. Here I am a year later, fully immersed in all things Lions and Rugby World Cup, feeling #TravelPositive about what the future holds. But my journey with MSG started a few months before the phone call from Mark.

Matt’s MSG journey

My sights had been set on following Wales at Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019 for years – a country I wouldn’t think to visit if it wasn’t for the oval ball. Sat at my desk at work, things weren’t going in the right direction for me and I knew I needed a change. A quick check for tickets. Fiji and Uruguay. That’ll do. How about flights? Return to Tokyo, via Moscow for less than £500. Works for me. Struggling for accommodation around Wales pool matches, I put out a desperate Tweet to see if I could find somewhere to stay. That’s when MSG Tours came to save the day – cape and all! I’d always been against ever using tour operators, just so I could DIY my trip and save a few quid. But here I was being rescued by one. I booked on alongside my mate, Dan. And using MSG’s own slogan, we #DeliveredTheUnexpected for them with Dan breaking his leg a few weeks before we were meant to travel. With Dan’s trip hanging in the balance (I was going without him, sorry pal!), MSG immediately quashed any worries we had and just told us to get Dan out there.

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Supporter in Japan

And thankfully, he came. Because it was quite frankly the best experience of my life! I always knew I was going to have an unforgettable time in the Land of the Rising Sun but I didn’t expect it to tower above the other experiences I had in travel.

What really took it up a few notches was travelling with MSG. Being surprised at the pre-match event in Beppu where a choir of Japanese schoolchildren belted out a thunderous rendition of ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ really set the tone for the tour (I wasn’t crying – there was dust in the air).

Regular karaoke nights and a few Asahi beers meant we built up a close-knit camaraderie with our fellow tourists. Everyone was willing to help me push Dan in his wheelchair on our excursions or help me carry his luggage when transferring. And, despite there being some big age gaps, we made friends for life over our mutual love of Wales and rugby.

“Everything I expected an organised tour to be, it was not”

The MSG Tour Staff were a big part of the group, joining in and averting any possibility of an ‘us and them’ divide. It really felt as they wanted to get to know every single supporter on that trip. Even on free days, they were finding us places to eat, things to do and coming along with us, too. They were one of us!

To finish the tour, ahead of the quarter-final vs France, MSG held a light-hearted tour award ceremony with the humorous Tom Shanklin leading proceedings while everyone was given a drink or two. Another unexpected highlight with everyone belly-laughing like we had done the whole trip and my mate, Dan winning the Supporter of the Tour (I’m still not over it!).

Everything I expected an organised tour would be, it was not. I didn’t want to be herded like cattle onto buses, I didn’t want to be told what to do. I wanted experiences and emotion. Put it this way, I knew who I was going to the next Rugby World Cup with in 2023.

A part of Team MSG

Fast forward 14 months and here I am creating content for you all about the incredible Supporters’ Tours we will deliver for you all over the next few years. Having been there and done it as an MSG Supporter, I can’t wait to help use my knowledge as a rugby fan to deliver unique experiences for you. And, of course, to share a drink with the many familiar faces from Japan.

I’m still as keen to go to France with MSG as I was at the end of 2019, but this time I’ll be going as a part of Team MSG.

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