Palatine bids farewell to French rugby team

The 38 French rugby players visiting Palatine on an exchange trip left the village Thursday, but not before a busy week of bonding with their American counterparts both on and off the field.

The players packed together with their coaches at the Palatine Metra station and said goodbye to their host families.

"It was emotional. There were a lot of smiles on a lot of tired, happy faces," Alan Burton, the president and coach of the Palatine Rugby Club, said. "We kept them very busy for the past six days, and I think the exhaustion was starting to kick in across the board."

Palatine Rugby Club families and members of the Sister Cities Association of Palatine hosted the French visitors, who were members from the Fontenay-Luçon Rugby Sud Vendée club and delegates from the village of Fontenay-le-Compte.

The 38 players, who range in age from 15 to 19, had nothing but praise for their hosts.

Richard Longe, a 19-year-old French player who spent part of his childhood in England and had the best English, said he and his teammates were impressed by the Palatine Rugby Club, especially since it began only in 2008.

"Even though their program isn't as developed as the one in France, all the willpower they've got and all the passion they've got for the sport, I know in the years to come they will very get to a really high level," Longe said.

Medhi Cottret, the 18-year-old captain of the varsity French team, said the Palatine players were brave and well-coached.

"All the sacrifices that (Burton) does for the club is amazing," Cottret said.

Franck Prevost, the French coach, praised their American hosts for being so welcoming.

"They are always up for things, they are always here for us," Prevost said, Longe interpreting. "We feel like we've had to do nothing. It's all been very planned out."

When they haven't been playing the Palatine team on the rugby field, the French club members have been sightseeing. Burton said the Palatine Park District was helpful in setting up the excursions, like Wednesday morning's disc golf games at Riemer Reservoir Park.

Burton said that the French club has invited the Palatine Rugby Club to visit in 2017.

"All of the host families have agreed to give everybody a week to decompress from this experience and then get together and begin preparations for 2017," Burton said.

Dominique Moire, the treasurer for the French club, said they'll have their work cut out for them to do as good of a job hosting as the Americans did.

"We're going to do the best we can to welcome them the French way," Moire said, through Longe.

  Hervé Boigeol, a delegate from Fontenay-le-Comte, accepts a gift from Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz at Monday's village council meeting. Doug T. Graham/
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