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A LONDON Irish Community Under 12 squad excelled at the Lougdunium Festival in Lyon recently, with Tadley Rugby Club players Scott Hopley and Guy Smith both impressing.

Rubbing shoulders with teams such as Toulon and Clermont, the Exiles youngsters were the festival’s top try scorers and won four of their matches including an impressive victory over Montpellier.

The squad, which was picked from more than 200 youngsters who participated in last year’s London Irish Community Festival at Henley Hawks Rugby Club, formed the guard of honour at the Championship play-off final.

The tour aimed to give the youngsters' invaluable experience of playing rugby in another country, while also developing their life experience.

Camaraderie was a key ingredient of the trip to France, which was boosted on arrival by a training session held by youth coaches from Lyon.

After enjoying a tour of Lyon’s impressive Parc de Gerland home on Saturday morning, the boys then experienced the sights and culture of the medieval city followed by the tournament kicking off.

In the searing 30 degrees plus heat, 16 teams took part in the round-robin competition, with the London Irish team in superb form despite a slow start to their opening two games.

“The trip was a huge success and one which will live long in the memory of all who travelled to Lyon,” said community coach Matthew Heeks.

“The youngsters will have gained valuable life experience during their stay in France and it will set them in good stead for the future.

“The lads played some very entertaining rugby with smiles on their faces which was great to see and I would like to thank everyone at Lyon for their superb hospitality.”

Smith added: “I’m very grateful to have had the experience of playing rugby in France and it was a trip that I’ll remember for a very long time.

“Everyone had such a great time and I’ve made friends for life.”

Head of Community Andy Keast said: “This project was the first of its kind undertaken by London Irish, but one that we will look at repeating in the future.

“I must thank all of the parents for their support throughout the process.”