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Racing 92 Hospitality: The Experiences of our Members

10th January 2017 By Munster Rugby Supporters Club

Racing 92 Hospitality: The Experiences of our Members

Much was said about the phenomenal kindness of the Racing 92 Supporters who offered their homes to MRSC members travelling to Paris for the rescheduled game last weekend. Now, hear the experiences of the members who took up the offer, stayed with and were astounded by the hospitality of their French counterparts last weekend.

Much was said about the phenomenal kindness of the Racing 92 Supporters who offered their homes to MRSC members travelling to Paris for the rescheduled game last weekend. Now, hear the experiences of the members who took up the offer, stayed with and were astounded by the hospitality of their French counterparts last weekend.

MRSC Committee Member Mark Meehan with former Committee and long term members Ger Harrington and Fiona O'Brien travelled and represented the MRSC over in Paris. Mark tells us of their trip here:

"The trip back to Paris was the closing of the circle for many of the Supporters who travelled to the famed French capital for the Racing 92 re- fixture. Our day started well on the flight out with the pilot wishing the team best of luck on the early Cork to Paris flight, for which he received a Munster scarf from us as we departed.

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Once we arrived to the hotel we were pleasantly surprised to find the Racing 92 team using it as their pre match meeting venue. The Racing team seemed surprised that we knew them all by name – one of the group told us that they were thinking what could the Munster team have in store for them if the Supporters had gone into so much detail?!

Obviously, we all wanted to meet one man – Ronan O'Gara – who duly stood for pictures and at one stage nearly put up four Munster Supporters who had booked into the hotel for Sunday night instead of Saturday night! An error which resulted in a large amount of fun in the reception… Ali Williams, the second row, commented how we had not forgotten ROG – he was informed that Racing were only minding him for us!

We then made our way to the ground to meet the central figure behind the amazing free accommodation offer. Pascal was presented with a signed Munster Rugby jersey as a token of our appreciation for his outstanding work.

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Together with Pascal and the various Racing Supporters Clubs we made our way to the Stadium entrance to form the Guard of Honour for the team arrivals, aided in the very cold weather by the lively French Brass band. There we had an opportunity to meet and get to know each of the Racing Supporter Clubs who gave us a selection of scarves, hats, pins and in one case a beautiful commemorative Racing Jersey with Axel and the number 8 printed on it. This will take pride of place on the wall of our Supporters Club Bar forevermore. We would like to take this opportunity again to extend a huge thank you to all the Supporters Clubs for their generosity.

We had a number of pieces of MRSC merchandise which we were handing out including hats, scarves, snoods, keyrings and more but what caught my attention was the swapping of clothing between Munster Supporters and Racing Supporters. In one case I saw in the distance jerseys coming off and changing hands between those brave enough to face the cold!

Inside the ground the minutes applause was a lovely gesture and warming up in the red t-shirts was a fitting tribute to Axel from the proud and historic rugby club that is Racing 92. Our Supporters from the Red Army did the team proud during the game with the majority of the Racing fans spending more time filming and taking pictures of the singing and cheering than the on field action. Our team represented the jersey with pride and honour as always and we really appreciate the time our players took to thank the Supporters for making the trip to Paris once again – this connection is what makes Munster Rugby so special! After the game we moved on to the various bars and restaurants with our new friends in which we shared the full hospitality and warmth of this Paris district late into the night.

We welcome the Racing Supporters to Thomond on the 21st and are already planning many little gestures to make their visit as special as possible. However, before that the Red Army march again with all roads leading to Glasgow. Looking forward to seeing you there!

On a final note I would just like to add that rugby is without comparison, a game like no other."

Long time MRSC members Aideen and Judi had travelled to the original game in October and were delighted to be able to stay with Pascal and his wife Chantal last weekend. Hear the incredible account of their trip here:

"Pascal and Chantal, our hosts, drove from their home in Pere Lachaise to Orly airport to collect us (Judi and myself) – this involved them waiting almost 2 hours in the airport for us as it took more than an hour for us to get through Passport Control. From there Pascal drove to the Café du Stade – just across the road from Stade Yves de Manoir – where a table was booked for lunch and we were introduced to the President of the Racing 92 Supporters Club among others. Lunch was paid for by Pascal and his friends with no fuss being made to accommodate the vegetarian amongst us!

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Our match tickets were for Porte 16 and Pascal and his friends were heading for Porte 10. However Pascal thought we should sit with him and his friends and so obtained the season tickets of two other supporters and we were given a place of honour with these Racing supporters.

After the game we adjourned to the club marquee for some vin chaud and the chance to be welcomed by club owner Jackie Lorenzetti. In his brief address he welcomed both Munster Rugby and their supporters.

We then travelled with Pascal, Chantal and Daniel (another Racing supporter who will also be in Thomond Park in 2 weeks time) to Xavier’s home in Anieres sue Seine – a Racing Supporter who was hosting MRSC member Anthony Fitzpatrick in his house. There was a gathering of 16 and we were treated to salmon, pate, wonderous cheeses including one called ‘Munster’, champagne and wines.

Later, Pascal and Chantal welcomed us into their home – a lovely spacious apartment in Pere Lachaise. Sunday morning included a real petit dejuner Francais – Pascal having made a trip to the boulangerie for a baguette, croissants and pain au chocolate – do we need to say more?!

Pascal then took us on a walk in the local area, through the wonderful Parc des Buttes Chaumont, showing us the birthplace of Edith Piaf, stopping for a small drink at a local café where Pascal is a regular – where we were greeted by the chef, the owner and a Clermont supporter – and then we finished the tour through the cemetery at Pere Lachaise.

Returning to the apartment, Chantal had prepared lunch for us with an aperitif to start, an entrée of goose fois gras with soup made specially for Judi, our own veggie. A special potato and vegetable main with roblechon cheese was declared delicious by Judi while the 3 of us had a tasty turkey dish. Cheese followed and lunch was finished with a chocolate cake with a homemade coffee crème. All accompanied by red and white wines… We could barely move at the end!!

Pascal and Chantal again braved the Parisian traffic to deliver us right to the door of Orly airport – to say we were blown away with all of their hospitality is a true understatement."

Paul McCarthy also took the Racing 92 Supporters Club up on their offer of accomodation for the fixture and was well looked after on his visit to the French capital.

My day began early on Saturday morning, as I had to pack and get ready to leave for Paris. I had had a fair amount of trouble getting flights and was unable to fly out on Friday as I had hoped. I’d investigated various ways of getting there from the UK airports – one of the more interesting options was a flight from Stansted to Paris via Istanbul, which would only take 11 hours! Eventually I managed a direct flight from Cork on Saturday and at the airport I met a good few Munster supporters including Mark Meehan and Ger Harrington – Ger, as ever, carrying armloads of flags with supreme confidence that they’d be allowed on as hand luggage.

It was a grand flight and we even landed early. Things were looking good until we came to passport control where we got stuck in a long queue, eventually getting through after about half an hour. Time was tight to get to the stadium but Mark came to the rescue by arranging for me to join a group who had a spare place in their transport to Colombes. Thankfully it didn’t take long to get to the hotel, which turned out to be the same one where the Racing 92 team were meeting. We saw quite a few of their team and ROG, who took the time to say hello to us.

I walked to the Stadium where I was due to meet Philippe and Anne-Sophie, my hosts for the weekend. We were meeting in a bar/restaurant just next to the stadium. When I found the restaurant, it was absolutely jammed with both Racing and Munster fans but I managed to find them both. Phillipe had no English, but Anne-Sophie spoke English well and they were both very welcoming. Anne-Sophie kindly took my rucksack and put it in her car so that I wouldn’t have to carry it around all evening. After a drink together, we headed off to the match; we were not sitting together so we made arrangements to meet in the restaurant after the final whistle.

The match, as you all know, was great, with a lovely tribute to Axel before the start – the Racing team warming up in red shirts bearing Axel’s name and number – and then before kick off there was a minute of, not silence, but clapping. From the kickoff there was a fantastic display by Munster. We were delighted when the 4th try was scored early in the second half and the bonus point was secured.

The Racing 92 supporters were great, generous in their appreciation of Munster as well their own team. Their friendliness before the match had made our supporters feel really welcome and there was a tremendous feeling of goodwill throughout our whole time at the Stade Yves du Manoir. The efforts made by both the team and the supporters to show their sympathy and support in our loss was heartfelt and has created a real bond between the two clubs.

After the match I met up again with Phillipe and Anne-Sophie and met Philippe’s young daughter Coralie. We stayed in the restaurant fairly late and then went to their flat, which was not too far from the stadium. I had told Anne-Sophie that I wanted to go the Musee D’Orsay in the morning (she was going off to see her family), and she went to a lot of trouble online to find out the train times and the best way to get there. The next morning Phillipe went out early to buy croissants and bread, and we had a good breakfast. When we had cleared up we took some photos in our team shirts and Anne-Sophie then drove me to the station to catch the train for Paris. We said our goodbyes and I was sad to leave them, they had been so kind and hospitable.

I had not been able to get a direct flight home to Cork, so I flew to London that evening where I stayed overnight and then flew home on Sunday evening. Pauline had recorded the match so we opened a bottle of champagne, toasted both the Munster team and supporters and my new friends from Racing, and then settled down to a great evening of Munster rugby, with no anxiety or worries about the result!"

The Munster Rugby Supporters Club would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the Supporters Clubs of Racing 92 for opening their hearts and homes to our own members. Keep an eye out for next weeks Red Letter where we will be outlining plans for the upcoming return fixture between our two teams in Thomond Park.

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