This would start a tradition of the clubs meeting up, playing a
match, and watching England vs France. It spanned across 60 years.
Part of the reason the clubs bonded so well was the hosting
arrangements. When the English visited Paris, tourists would stay
in the home of one of the French players. The courtesy would be
returned when the French visited London. There was no need for
hotels either side of the channel. Patrick Delage, a French tourist
since 1987, said it was how the teams broke down language barriers:
"I didn't learn to speak English at school, but by living with the
friends who received me on the tours".
Old Gaytonians eventually became West London in 2000 after
merging with Kingsburians and Roxeth Manor. Meanwhile, Neuilly
folded in France, with many of the players joining what is now
Plessis Meudon. Yet players of the two countries continuously kept
in touch and maintained the tradition.
A unique itinerary
West London RFC would usually leave on the Friday before Le
Crunch, with adequate alcohol on route. On arrival to Paris, they
would meet their French host for the weekend. After getting settled
in their host's home, they would ready themselves for the evening
celebrations. Top of the host's priorities was to generously pour
into the glasses of the tourists. The hope being, that they'll be
in no state to win a rugby match the next day!
On the Saturday, the wishful attempt was always an early
kick-off. With the beers and wine flowing the night before, a
delayed opening whistle was fairly common. The fixture would begin
with both teams lining-up and singing their respective anthems like
an international. When the opening whistle blew, both sides put
their hangovers aside to battle for bragging-rights. Still being a
tour fixture though, there were numerous bizarre incidents. During
one fixture, the match ball was replaced by a frozen chicken.
Perhaps they were paying homage to the French tradition of bringing
a cockerel to 'Le Crunch'.
Following the fixture, tourists would venture to the national
stadium. The host club would always do their utmost to provide as
many tickets for England Vs France as was possible. The clubs would
reconvene for more festivities afterwards.
Sundays would conclude the tour, but not before a traditional
wine and cheese feast in the clubhouse. It would be accompanied by
both teams giving their best renditions of rugby songs. Logically,
it was the French who would supply the wine. Some cite the horror
of witnessing their English friends mixing wines. Doron Benghozi, a
tourist since 1981, was appalled at witnessing Burgundy being added
to a glass of Beaujolais!