The Tours

It is a long time since the founder members of the English Advertising Agencies Rugby Club met for the first time at Gatwick Airport in April 1983.

Since then we have established a unique event - a regular, high-class sporting fixture between two national advertising industries - we know of no other.

So far we have played 26 'internationals' and, for the last sixteen years, a Barbarians match too, typically involving over 80 players each year.

Today we play the twenty fourth international and, over the years, in what has always been a fiercely-contested sporting encounter, we have established something much deeper - mutual respect, friendship and the fun of getting together because, despite our many differences (starting with being French and English), we all love advertising and rugby.

Read on to discover what we have done so far. Looking back, it just can't be possible to have more fun than this...

Paris 1983
A close encounter, refereed by Jean Pierre Rives, between two evenly-matched teams with the English Agencies coming from behind to win 18-12 with two scores in the closing minutes. A champagne night out at 'La Privilege' and Mike Hamer's incredible acrobatic somersault on the moving walkway at Charles de Gaulle are two lasting memories.

London 1984
An English victory, 24-12 at The Stoop, followed by dinner at The Dickens Inn and congas round La Valbonne where the bouncers, dwarfed and outnumbered, sensibly retreated to the bar.

The French performance in the NABS 7s the next day was extraordinary and they left to catch their plane unbeaten in the plate competition, having lost by one score to the eventual winners of the Masius Cup.

Paris 1985
A French band meets us at the airport, L'Equipe publishes a special supplement about the match and posters on the side of the coach ("Remember Jeanne d'Arc", "The Bus to Hell" etc.) indicate a new level of French determination. The late Robert Pamperamborde continues the French tradition of celebrity referees and we win well, 28-12.

The flooding of 'Les Bains' night-club that evening seemed, amazingly, to delight the owners as upwards of 40 players demonstrated Archimedes principle in the swimming pool.

London 1986
Controversy, as the French, having grimly defended a 7-6 lead for the whole of the second half, concede a marginal last minute penalty which is run in for a converted try. 12-7.

In the spirit of the event the disappointment is soon forgotten and Saturday night's dinner at The Brewery is one of the best and noisiest ever.

Alistair Timms' vanishing table-cloth trick is demonstrated to work with centres, a change to front row forwards reduces the table to matchwood. The management smile, adjust the bill and invite us back.

Paris 1987
Jean-Pierre Villepreux finally proves that at least one French international knows the offside laws and referees a tough, close game. We win 10-6.

Our new nickname, "Les Rosbifs", adorns a 48 sheet poster site outside our hotel in Place des Pigalles.

Despite the location, we all arrive home safely but with a variety of insurance claims that take a lot of explaining...

1987 also sees the global extension of advertising rugby with the French Agencies XV circumnavigating the world, losing closely to Australia in Sydney, but recording their first international victory, over Ireland, in Dublin.

London 1988
At the Richmond Athletic Ground for the second time, we play some of the best rugby so far, winning 28-10 in glorious sunshine.

The weather holds for the NABS 7s the following day, when the French players once again add colour to the occasion in their own inimitable way, taking the field adorned with red, white and blue gas balloons, proceeding grandly through the tournament to the Plate semi-final.

TV-AM takes over the role of main sponsor although Tony Vickers declines to add weight to our Second Row.

Arcachon 1989
A change in venue from Paris to a beautiful seaside town some 80 kms south of Bordeaux.

This is French seafood country and we feast on local mussels just 10 minutes out of the water.

The pitch at local club La Teste is a revelation - probably the finest playing surface anywhere in Europe.

We launch a combined reserve side, the Anglo-French Advertising Barbarians, which plays out an honourable 50-50 draw with the local veterans team, after which a fired-up English team demolishes the French Agencies XV.

Who cares about the result when the sun is shining and the food, wine and beaches of Arcachon beckon? We stay the whole weekend and totter back to London on Monday morning courtesy of understanding Air France staff, who hold the flight while the late sleepers dress in the airport lounge.

London 1990
The Anglo-French Barbarians annihilate a competitive but outpaced Twickenham XV. The main match is much, much closer with the French pack unrecognisable from the previous fixture and a real handful.

We win 14-12 but without ever being in full control and one senses a new level of determination in the whole French team.

Dinner at the Richmond Clubhouse is followed by a return to the Star Bar at The Hippodrome where, amongst other excesses, a world record bill for Tequila Slammers is amassed.

On Sunday we drink in country pubs, shoot clay pigeons with lasers and, at Effingham RFC's pretty clubhouse, demolish hours of preparation by John and Sally West & Co in minutes.

En route to Gatwick we agree to target Hong Kong and Sevens Week for the 1992 fixture.

Biarritz 1991
Triumph and disaster, depending on your point of view, as the Rugby Club de la Publicité sweeps to a convincing victory.

Our 8 match unbeaten record is hammered out of sight as, less fit, less well prepared and, for once, less motivated, we go down 43-16.

Canada continue the surprises by beating Fiji in a World Cup match that evening and, with the sun shining next morning, the Barbarians enjoy the unique experience of playing the Old Archibalds Vets in the shadow of the vast Bayonne Stadium.

We leave the original Audour Cup in French hands for ever, determined to put matters right in Hong Kong....

Hong Kong 1992
We celebrate the tenth anniversary with our most ambitious tour - over 80 members of the two clubs meet in Hong Kong. "Mad in Hong Kong" is the French theme - quickly changed to "Mud" as it rains, and rains, and rains. We return to winning ways and nights at the Go-Down Club and Dan Ryans ("80 for dinner please, in an hour's time - no, we didn't book") were two special highlights.

The Anglo-French naked chair conga is launched at the Go Down and Hong Kong immediately severs ties with Britain.

Paris 1993
A sharp return to reality as we travel to Paris and come heavily unstuck, 36-12, failing to get nearly enough ball to unleash one of the best back divisions we've ever had. Fun in Paris reaches epic proportions with a record number of beds in the charming Hotel Perle still in pristine condition in the morning.

On Sunday we cruise the Seine and Saturday's disappointment simply fades away.

Esher 1994
The French run continues on a grey day at Esher. Laurent Benezech becomes the first current international to grace the field of play and makes his presence felt. We lose more heavily than perhaps we deserve, taking consolation from a sparkling win by the Barbarians in the first competitive match between the English and French teams.

Dinner at the hotel in South Ken reduces travelling time and leaves plenty of opportunity for the now traditional naked chair conga. The short walk to a local night-club becomes a stagger home as the bar bill breaks all records. Eurosport provides vital sponsorship

Eymet 1995
There's something very special about rural France and the magic of Eymet settles over the tour from the minute we arrive. A beautiful small ground next to the Ossard goose processing factory sees yet another English Barbarians win followed by yet another thumping French victory - spearheaded by a French pack sans Benezech but still far too strong.

In the evening, we take a small corner of a municipal celebration in the Town Square. Cassoulet is served to an extraordinary number of people with typical French organised chaos. It's beautiful.

London 1996
On a difficult weekend for arrangements, we entertain our French guests on Saturday and play on Sunday.

What can we say about the unique setting of The Honourable Artillery Company? It's unique. An English Barbarians win is followed by a hard-fought 1st XV draw (which, according to both teams, was an unfair result). Afterwards we troop upstairs for a memorable dinner in an Officers' Dining Room bedecked with regimental colours. Dark oak tables are laid with regimental silver. Free-flowing wine unleashes the largest and loudest chair conga ever.

Brilliant - a weekend to rival Archacon in an English sort of way.

Auch 1997
Haut cuisine joins advertising rugby as we explore every breed of duck and every duck recipe, savour many subtle variations of fois gras and sample the innocuous-looking but seriously dangerous eaux de vie which make up Armagnac.

In between we launch "le lac rouge" (in our glamorous hot pink polos) visit the mayor and play rugby.

The 1st XV loses a close match to a scoreline which slightly flatters the victors. Our Barbarians win well.

Auch is a gloriously friendly town and many of us made a mental note to return one day...

London 1998
Year of the rain. We play at Twickenham RFC on one of the few pitches in the UK well-drained enough to enable rugby in the downpour.

Exasperatingly, the French win again - getting ahead through superior teamwork while our 1st XV players are still introducing themselves to each other. We are required to play catch-up rugby, coming oh so close until a last-minute penalty distorts the scoreline.

Our Barbarians, who know each other much better, win handsomely.

On Sunday the sun shines and we cruise the Thames in style.

St. Croix Volvestre 1999
Maybe we don't eat enough duck. Or, perhaps, it's because the EAARFC plays once a year and the Rugby Club de la Publicité now plays regularly throughout the season in a Paris business league.

So we ponder cause and effect after yet another close defeat in the 1st XV match - this time in the pretty setting and powerful sunshine of St. Croix Volvestre.

Our Barbarians have, of course, won magnificently but six defeats and a draw in the last seven 1st XV matches are seriously undoing our good run in the early years.

Otherwise, the weather is wonderful, the hotels are typically French and we eat and drink well, and often.

Rugby School 2000
Pure magic. Rugby is a down-to-earth town with no particular claim to fame except the School and William Webb Ellis.

A narrow road divides town from school. Cross it, negotiate a maze of quadrangles and passageways and the birthplace of rugby stretches out in front of you.

The Close is magnificent - there's a real feeling of history and Wimbledon centre court quality turf.

The plans work like clockwork. Two EAARFC teams plus supporters arrive safely and on time from London, as do our French guests, and the weather is superb.

We end the losing streak emphatically (and the Barbarians win too). Afterwards we dine in Old School and return to the quadrangle for further refreshment where Andy Boucher gathers ten times as many stitches than over seventy players managed in the afternoon in attempting to prove his rather dubious pedigree by unsuccessfully demonstrating the upper-class art of quad running.

The rest of us have a great time in the Gas St. nightclub, lunch extravagantly the following day and leave with many good memories.

Lourdes 2001
Supercharged by a well-known energy drink (kindly supplied by Red Bull) our Barbarians XV, led by 'Leaping Salmon' Richard Brooke, maintains its unbeaten record in its eighth Barbarians match at Lourdes Rugby Club.

Alas, they drank the whole consignment and, bereft of the same energy advantages, we lost narrowly in the 1st XV match which followed.

The absence of further supplies did little to inhibit the post-match dinner and party which reduced the 100 members of the two advertising rugby clubs to standing corpses.

Lourdes has a proud rugby history and the club was a frequent winner of the French club championship in the 1970s. We were welcomed by Jean Prat, 'Monsieur Rugby' himself - one of many players immortalised in huge portraits on the stadium walls.

Much, much later a number of our late night revellers swam the river to find it as 'cool as a mountain stream' - even in June.

The aquatic theme continued into Sunday with a day at a water park which generated much light-hearted silliness and plenty of sunburn.

One of the lakes sported a sign in French and English. "Danger - No Swimming. Giant Watersnakes" - they didn't stand a chance.

A fabulous weekend. One of the very best.

We face reality in the aftermath of September 11th. The industry is in severely straightened circumstances and we postpone, determined not to let the fixture die.

Wimbledon 2003
Glorious weather at Wimbledon - a friendly junior club with, it seems, the only grassy pitch in SE England.

We find some extra players for the French Barbarians who, alas, turn out to be 'grade' players from down under and, with fitness telling, a last minute try indicates a dubious 'away victory' - a subject for extensive further discussion.

We lose the 1st XV match but it is closer than the score indicates and, once again, teamwork is the difference.

Everyone wins afterwards - cold drinks in the sun at Wimbledon followed by a superb carvery dinner at the Richmond clubhouse - and then on into London's nightlife.

On Sunday we walk along the river at London Bridge, quenching our thirst at riverside pubs and lunch in Hay's Galleria - returning to winning ways in the Petanque tournament which followed. A great weekend.

Paris 2004
It's very early. We glide smoothly out of Waterloo with everyone on board.


So is the state of the pitch at Gennevilliers - a northwest Paris suburb administered by the French communist party. We play on a perfect lush green surface - and play well.

The Barbarians win handsomely and, for once getting the advantage of the first score, the 1st XV grinds out a close, hard-fought but well-deserved victory.

We drink the clubhouse dry afterwards and much later, do pretty well the same in an elegant Saint Germain nightclub. Just as well, as the taxi-less walk back to the hotel (allegedly "vingt minutes") traces the route of the Paris marathon, but at least we avoid dehydration.

On Sunday we lunch in the Bois de Bologne and drink Eurostar dry on the way back - arriving for refreshment at a pub near Waterloo just in time to see Beckham's idiotic penalty kick - against France! Well, perhaps they had to win something...

Grasshoppers 2005
Grasshoppers RFC is a close neighbour of Sky, allegedly in Isleworth, Osterley or somewhere. Everyone found it and enjoyed it as the friendly, comfortable club it is. Appalling weather and an unwelcome last-minute switch to the 2nd XV pitch failed to discourage the French 1st XV and the English Barbarians - both of whom won well.

On Sunday we explored along the River Thames as far as the Isle of Dogs, then back to The Ship in Wandsworth where we arrived at the same time as 5,000 Chelsea supporters celebrating winning the Premiership.

Our reserved barbecue area remained secure - but shoals of delicious sardines and sides of organic lamb were devastated - and rightly so.

Espelette - Saar 2006
To the Basque country and an amazing weekend, genially hosted by former fearsome international prop and France's 'strongest man', the now gentle Pierre Dospital. On Friday we eat and eat and eat at his bar/bistro - then drink and drink...and drink.

On Saturday it rains and rains - but the Saar club is magical. A giant industrial marquee with servings of barbecued baby pig and fiery local wine keeps the rain out and us in.

Supercharged, we demolish our hosts in both matches, returning the 1st XV's largest-ever score (52-0).

Afterwards, we drink and drink, then eat, eat...and eat at the hotel - owned by another former ferocious French prop (Jean Michel Iturbide) who cooks paella for us in industrial quantities - but nothing remains.

Drinking parties scour the country thereafter and on Sunday we eat, eat...and eat - a traditional Basque lunch which just keeps on coming.

No wonder the Basque are strong people - 10,000 calories a day with seemingly endless appetite for food, fun and friendship. One of the best tours ever.

Cambridge 2007
Cambridge RFC is now a highly successful club of National 2 status, with an enterprising and friendly management team. This is reflected in the clubhouse - the original homely single-storey building remains, encapsulated by a swanky first-floor extension with marvellous drinking and dining facilities.

We make full use of CRFC's facilities with breakfast for 80 at the club - two matches on a beautifully maintained 1st XV pitch and a splendid dinner afterwards.

Both teams stay at an elegant golf hotel just up the road and, on Sunday, the first Anglo-French Advertising Golf Challenge is played.

We win both rugby matches and the golf, but our French guests undoubtedly win the punt war the following day when prodigious amounts of water take to the air, sparing nobody on or near the River Cam.

Great fun - another memorable weekend.

Paris 2008
We return to Paris and Gennevilliers, now the Rugby Club de la Publicité’s home ground, for a big surprise – a French Barbarians team determined to cast aside a long history of defeat. They very nearly pulled it off, but not quite, so our glorious Barbarians march on.

Less glory for 1st XV in a tough encounter marred by Ben Mott’s broken leg and a narrow defeat – but both teams introduced new players which bodes well for the future.

Dinner at L’Equipe was a great success as was the artistic morning and an outstandingly good lunch in St Germain the next day.

Alas, the French creep closer – it’s now 13-11 with one draw.

Tunbridge Wells 2009
Aylesford Bulls RFC is a friendly and well-organised club on the banks of the M20 in Kent.

Superb weather and a superb pitch favoured open rugby and, unfortunately for the EAARFC, the French started strongly in both matches, building up substantial leads which the two home sides were unable to close completely, despite spirited fightbacks.

An impeccably organised weekend then moved to Royal Tunbridge Wells, where the fun lasted, virtually non-stop, until the French party departed for Ashford Station on Sunday afternoon...

Paris – Suresnes Rugby Club
A smooth Eurostar journey is followed by a warm welcome and a huge brunch at one of France’s friendliest clubs.

The facilities are superb, the refereeing typically French and the matches as competitive as ever. We win twice despite losing the penalty count by a massive margin.

Dinner at Le Marché Saint Germain does not go exactly to plan and ends up as a traffic-stopping street party, followed by an all-night (nearly) session in ‘Soif Street’.

There is little energy left and Sunday is devoted to culture (the Monet exhibition) and an elegant lunch at L’Auberge du Bonheur. Another amazing tour.  

Bath – The Rec
We play on hallowed ground. One of the most beautiful and historic rugby locations anywhere in the world.
The weather is perfect, the pitch is in glorious condition and a wonderfully exotic Fairtrade Coffee event is occupying several large marquees at the far end of The Rec.

The temporary stand has been taken down as we aren’t expecting 12,000 supporters – but those who do come see a feast of rugby.

Our Barbarians lose valiantly to a representative team consisting of a few French admen and a lot of very fit local players trying to get professional contracts.

Amazingly, and with the deficit ready to go astro, the Barbarians dig in, score tries and win the last 20 minutes.
The main match is one of the best in our 28 year history. We do our usual trick of falling behind to a better organised French XV but, showing Barbarian spirit, pull back, get ahead and finally ease away with an end-to-end try to end it.

Dinner in the Bath clubhouse is a riot of fun and Bob Short (RIP) and Chrissie are guests of honour – the club’s last sight of a fine and brave man.

Fifty EAARFC members, past and present, attended a dinner in honour of Jean Pierre Audour at The East India Club in October 2006.

Jean Pierre issued the first challenge in 1983 and, as President of the Rugby Club de la Publicité ever since, has now been promoted to a non-executive position -"President Forever". It was a sparkling occasion and fitting recognition of the effort, ingenuity and humour he has unfailingly applied to making everything work for the EAARFC and its members.