When Newton Stewart RFC departed for Marcoussis at 3am on Thursday 5th February to play Marcoussis-ASM-Rugby, the tour party on the bus eagerly anticipated the chance to play rugby football on foreign soil and taste some rugby club frolics in another country.
Returning to Calais at lunchtime on Sunday 8th February, reflection was not primarily about the rugby as expected, but more about relationships built, friendships made, the opportunities that ‘twinning’ brings and the creation of something which could and should last the test of time.
Through an initial meeting with Marcoussis Mayor, Olivier Thomas at the Newton Stewart-Marcoussis twinning ceremony in 2013, the idea of an exchange visit of rugby clubs was floated.
From here plans slowly began to evolve as arrangements drew together an itinerary that would see Newton Stewart RFC travel to France for a four-day visit, stay with local Marcoussis people, enjoy their unquestionable hospitality and generally enjoy the benefits that being twinned with another town brings.
We arrived in Marcoussis on Thursday evening after a 16-hour journey to be welcomed by the local contingent. Here we split up to go into our respective households with our French hosts. This was a little difficult and nerve wracking for many of the party as no one knew what to expect and how difficult communication might be.
However, when we reconvened on Friday morning the general reaction was one of “Wow”. Everyone had been fed, watered and looked after so well. The mood was upbeat and this was looking like it was going to be an even more memorable few days. Chaperoned by some of our new found friends we then travelled into the city for a little sightseeing before returning to Marcoussis for the main event of Le Tour.
Our rugby match took place on one of four artificial surfaces in the Paris suburb which is the home of the French Federation of Rugby (FFR is the French equivalent of our SRU). Playing in artic conditions (-10 wind chill) on a perfect 3G surface that suited the light, quick Newton Stewart XV, three well worked tries were racked up through Brad Mulder, William Mc Cornick and Duncan Skimming to secure a resounding 0-19 victory and help maintain the club’s 100% win record on French soil.
It was a fantastic result and a super occasion which was testament to the visitors’ attitude and determination. It also highlighted to the travelling group the importance of quality facilities and that attractive, running rugby football is possible given the right conditions on a playable surface.
What followed the victory will long last in the memories of the visitors. As the Newton team entered the Marcoussis ASM club rooms it was like stepping back into times of rugby camaraderie at its finest. The visitors and hosts celebrated together like long lost brothers to reinforce why rugby really is the beautiful game. Any disagreements were left on the field as a new bond of friendship was forged to mark this exchange of sporting experience and culture.
The final day of the visit on Saturday included a personal club tour of the FFR complex in Marcoussis followed by an opportunity to watch the France versus Belgium ladies international. We then travelled into Paris to Stade du France to watch a relatively lacklustre France versus Scotland international that the hosts ran out eventual winners.
Saturday evening saw our visit to Marcoussis conclude with another evening of local hospitality and joviality. It rounded off a remarkable exchange that is already seeing the foundations of a lasting legacy that will see our French friends travel to Newton Stewart RFC in 2016.