A team from Horsham Rugby Club are set to embark on a once-in-a-generation tour to Horsham’s twin town of Saint Maixent L’Ecole in western France.
Horsham Rugby Club Colts, the under-18 team, will be the first team from the club to visit Saint Maixent since the 1980s, with the hope of re-establishing the link between the two towns.
At a ceremony at County Hall North in Horsham on Monday (March 31), the team were waved off by the chairman of Horsham District Council, Philip Circus, who presented them with a letter and gifts for the mayor of the French town.
Team captain Kyle Fairs, 18, said: “We haven’t been over there for 20 years so it will be good to start it all over again.
“It will be so much fun. They must have old photos from years before, because there are still players at our club telling me about when they were there, so seeing the photos of them playing there will be really good.
“We are really excited, we can’t wait to go.”
The club’s tours to Saint Maixent in the 1970s and 1980s led to the two towns setting up a twinning arrangement.
However, no teams from Horsham have toured there for more than a quarter of a century.
Mr Circus, who is also the president of the Horsham District Twinning Association, said: “I think it is great to be able to encourage visits such as this, it is all part of increasing international understanding on a very human level.
“This sort of chance for young people to meet with their opposite numbers in France is an excellent initiative and I wish them all the very best. “It is a practical example of what can come from twinning, and as president of the twinning association I support it.”
Player Cammy Allan addressed Mr Circus on behalf of the team, thanking the chairman for their invite to the council offices.
The tour was secured thanks to sponsorship from Paladin Capital Group, a property development group based in Horsham.
Sylvester Vince-Odozi, the group’s CEO, cited his own love of rugby, his young son recently joining the club, and his desire to support the community as reasons for sponsoring the team.
He said: “I have been speaking to a handful of the players and they are clearly quite excited.
“It has been 20 years since the last tour so it is good to be part of the renewal.
“Horsham Rugby Club is a club that relies on individual time and input, and I want to be giving as much of that as I can.”
The Colts - one of the strongest teams in Sussex at their age group - will emabrk on the five day tour at Easter.
The squad was actively encouraged to visit Saint Maixent by the Horsham Twinning Association.
The team will be welcomed with a civic reception on their arrival.