‘Le Crunch’ match this weekend as Bedford-Salle rugby tour celebrates 40 years

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Bedford Junior Blues Under 16s with US Salles in France in 2018
Bedford Junior Blues Under 16s with US Salles in France in 2018.

This Easter weekend sees over 40 boys from French team US Salles visiting Bedford Junior Blues for the 40th anniversary of the Bedford-Salle Rugby Tour.

Special matches and events will be held at Goldington Road, home of the Bedford Blues throughout the weekend, to mark the historic occasion and friendship between the two clubs.

Matthew Bennett, tour manager said: “It would be great if the people of Bedford could get behind us and support our budding rugby players and this wonderful tradition by coming along to see us play.

“The highlight of the tour is ‘Le Crunch’ at 3.00pm on Easter Sunday at Bedford Blues Goldington Road Ground. Entry to the ground is free.”

The tours, which include a return trip to each club, started in 1977 when former Blues’ president Gareth Davies was on holiday in France with his family.

His mum had to visit a doctor who just happened to be a huge fan of the local French Rugby team, US Salle and suggested an exchange.

The teams’ first exchange took place in March 1978 with just 12 boys and three adults taking a 24 hour coach trip to SW France to play several clubs including Salles.

The tour has continued every year since with each club taking it in turns to host.

In 2018 one of the original tourists, Neil Blakemore, returned to Salles with his own sons, also Junior Blues players and the original coach, Gareth Davies, to continue the tradition.

This weekend, the boys from US Salles will play Ampthill RFC on Saturday then on Sunday, before heading to Goldington Road to face the U16s Junior Blues in their annual ‘Le Crunch’ match.

‘Le Crunch’ kicks off at 3pm and entry to the ground is free. After the final whistle and a clean-up, the teams will then enjoy a gala dinner.

The tour will end on bank holiday Monday with current Bedford Blues’ players giving the junior squads a rugby session at ‘The Ath’ on the Junior Blues’ new AGP pitch.

Geoff Irvine, chairman of Bedford Blues, was awarded the Freedom of Salle to mark the special relationship between the two clubs.