As a youthful Ospreys team took on a full strength Lyon team at Hermance RRC on Friday night, one spectator taking a trip down memory lane was Roger Blyth, Managing Director at the region.
The former Swansea and Wales full-back was enjoying a return to the Swiss club, based just across the border in the French town of Chens Sur Leman, 34 years after his previous visit as part of the All Whites squad.
The 1977 Swansea pre-season camp was the second time that the club had traveled to face Hermance, a club celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and Friday night’s game against the T14 newcomers was part of the anniversary celebrations.
Reflecting on the occasion, Blyth said that it was good for the region to be able to continue a part of tradition formed by one of its founding clubs:
“It’s great to be able to come back to the area after so many years. At Swansea we would always look to go to different places on tour and after Mike James made a contact with Hermance the club was invited out in 1974 to visit. I wasn’t part of that trip but I came three years later for the 1977 pre-season where we spent a week, playing a French Second Division club as well.
“While the tour was great, I didn’t have such a good experience in the match as I damaged knee ligaments in the game here and ended up missing most of the season, but the tour itself was a big thing for Swansea and helped reinvigorate the club. Trevor Evans was captain, Stan Addicott Coach, and we really kicked on from here.
“Hermance also came to Swansea, and the relationships forged back then are still strong. The friends we made on those tours are still involved with the club to this day, and have actually become big Ospreys fans, traveling to watch us at the Liberty and coming to game in France.
“As a new organisation that is less than 10 years old, we are still creating our history, our heritage, so it’s great that we can build on the existing relationship between Swansea and Hermance, and to be part of their 40th anniversary celebrations is an honour for the Ospreys. It’s been a great evening and a wonderful experience for the younger boys in the traveling squad who have never been to Switzerland before. Hopefully, the Ospreys and Hermance can retain this strong relationship for many seasons to come.”
Ospreys Forwards Coach, Jonathan Humphreys, is in agreement with Blyth regarding the importance of the relationship with Hermance, saying:
“It’s a wonderful experience for such a young squad of players to be able to come to Switzerland and not only get to see a part of the world they may not be familiar with, but to enjoy some time on what in many ways has been an old fashioned rugby club tour where getting to know people and really enjoying grass roots rugby is at the heart of everything.
“It’s about educating guys, creating core values that will serve them well throughout their careers and understanding history. It’s allowed people to get to know each other away from the everyday environment and strengthened an existing bond with Hermance that I’d love to see grow stronger.”