Wymonham vet gave the visitors from Rouen a warm welcome
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‘A Weekend to Savour…
Following the warm welcome and generous hospitality shown to the Wymondham U13 and U15 touring teams by Stade Rouennais a few weeks ago, this weekend it was the turn of Wymondham RFC to entertain ‘Les Arlequins’- veteran players from the other end of the age spectrum!
Under the leadership of Messrs. Jean-Pierre Botrel and Bernard Jacquey, a party of 24 Rouen veterans arrived in Norwich on the evening of Friday 13th May. Having been met at their hotel in Norwich, they were quickly transported to the Red Lion pub in Bishopgate- one of the oldest quarters of Norwich in the shadow of the cathedral and adjacent to the river- where officials from Wymondham made their acquaintance.
Having enjoyed traditional English fish and chips, the serious drinking began and the Wymondham and Rouen players and officials quickly built friendships and managed to find ways of communicating despite the language barrier.
Midnight came and most of the French party retired to their hotel although a few intrepid souls ventured into Norwich. Unfortunately, one of their number forgot to take the hotel address and, on leaving a certain establishment at 5.00 a.m., could only find a hard bench at the railway station on which to snatch some sleep!
Saturday morning saw a tour of the English Whisky Co.’s distillery at Roudham and then, by coach to a reception with champagne, wine and bacon rolls, generously hosted by Bob Sutton and his family and attended by Wymondham Mayor , Councillor Colin Foulger. Bob Sutton and Cllr Foulger were each presented with a lavishly illustrated catalogue of an important art exhibition which had recently been held in Rouen.
Bob, who is a nonagenarian, has been associated with rugby all his life and was instrumental in building links with Rouen rugby in his days as an official of Norwich RFC. He is an ex-President and honorary life member of Wymondham RFC, in which he still takes an active interest, and has been delighted to rekindle the relationship with Rouen, also presenting two cups to be played for annually between youth sides of the two clubs.
Following the reception, the party moved to the rugby club to prepare for battle! The match was hard fought and played under European Veterans’ rules with uncontested scrums and a prohibition on any kicking beyond the defending team’s 22 metre line thus encouraging running rugby.
The game was hard-fought with some of the players showing flashes of their past skills and, fortunately, despite the hard ground, no noteworthy injuries occurred. Particular mention must be made of Paul Wootton’s famous dummy and step which, once again, opened huge gaps in the opponent’s defensive line and was much appreciated by the Wymondham aficionados!
The Wymondham tactic of dispensing ample hospitality in the 24 hours or so before the game, paid off and resulted in a convincing win for the home side despite the best efforts of Francophile referee, Dick Shand, to even up the match!
Business over, both teams and their supporters repaired to the clubhouse where officials from both clubs expressed their great pleasure at the strengthening bonds between the clubs and pledged to build on the relationship. It was noteworthy that the bottle of Calvados for the ‘Man of the Match’ on the French side went to referee Dick Shand!
A series of presentations and toasts by both clubs followed and some very special beverage from Rouen was sampled. Needless to say, bonhomie flourished and, before long, it was impossible to distinguish between members of Wymondham and Rouen clubs as each was wearing the other’s clothes!
Following a barbecue supper in the clubhouse, each club tried to outdo the other by demonstrating their vocal prowess with traditional songs from their own traditions (at least, both sides knew ‘Alouette’) culminating in a ‘boat race’ which was won convincingly by les anglais…
A mini walking tour of Wymondham hostelries followed led by Brett Larke, Marty Jermyn and Andrew Nelson with the Chairman bringing up the rear and, amazingly, nobody got lost this time. The landlord of the Queen’s Head in Town, after the initial shock, realised that this was a good humoured party and turned a blind eye to the various displays of male flesh that were exhibited. I will spare her blushes by maintaining anonymity but how did one of the more petite female members of our party manage to swap underwear (bra and briefs) with a massive French lock in a crowded bar?
Finally, news came that the coach was waiting outside and the party spilled noisily into the narrow street to be greeted by a police patrol car which instantly switched on its blue lights. Heart sinking, I approached the car to explain to the officers that this was a diplomatic mission in support of the entente cordiale and that they were harmless really- only to realise that the driver, now resplendent in uniform, was one of the lads that had played in our colt’s team a few years back and is a current 2nd or 3rd XV member when his duties allowed! Great relief, laughter and exchange of handshakes and we were finally able to climb into the coach.
A quick stop at the club to pick up the bags and it was handshakes, (manly) hugs and ‘au revoirs’ all round with members of both clubs swearing undying friendship and vowing that this was just the start of a relationship that was going to last far into the future and next time we would house the visitors in our homes rather than a hotel… ‘
To see more of what Les ARLEQUINS de ROUEN have been doing CLICK HERE