Sevens side enjoys southern hospitality

French connection: The French Rugby Sevens team does an impromptu haka at Davies Bay during downtime in the Marlborough Sounds.
French connection: The French Rugby Sevens team does an impromptu haka at Davies Bay during downtime in the Marlborough Sounds.

They came to the Marlborough Sounds, saw our stunning scenery and conquered a mountain of sandwiches at Picton Village Bakery.

The French Rugby Sevens team made a whistlestop tour of Picton at the weekend for some downtime ahead of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Wellington.

The group of 17 took a tour along Queen Charlotte Track, munched on some native plants and showcased an impromptu haka at Davies Bay.

They also had a fleeting visit to Kaikoura where one of the locals came out of his home with an accordion playing the French national anthem.

But in typical French style the confident players seemed undaunted by the attention their six-foot figures were attracting in Picton as they chatted to fellow trampers and posed for photographs.

Picton adventure tourism operator, Wilderness Guides Marlborough Sounds, played host to the team's visit.

Guide Sean Mulvany said he wore his All Blacks cap during the guided tour. Unperturbed, the French sportsmen didn't rise to the friendly sporting jab and were more concerned about how their countrymen fared in the Six Nations Championship in Paris.

"Most of them didn't pay attention to my hat," Mr Mulvany said. "They were more concerned with the fact they couldn't watch the Six Nations match against England the night before.

"I am not a huge fan of sevens rugby but when I saw the team wearing their blue tracksuits and cock motif I knew they were the real McCoy and I was dealing with elite sportsmen."

The French side were even up for the challenge of savouring the region's edible plants, not that he wanted to poison them, he said.

"They were very interested when I ate the tip of an edible supplejack and their hands thrust out to try it. They must have ate half a dozen.

"The main objective was to have a bit of downtime away from the public eye where they could relax and not injure themselves."

Wilderness Guides Marlborough Sounds owner Juliet Gibbons said it was a pleasure to host the team and showcase the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds.

"We received a spontaneous booking from them a few days ago and we thought it was fantastic. It is great to see an international side coming to the Marlborough Sounds."

The guides were also very careful not to mention the last Rugby World Cup, Ms Gibbons said.

After the tour, the players visited Picton Village Bakery before getting the ferry to Wellington.

Staff member Sophia Phillips didn't recognise the team but said sandwiches were the order of the day.

"They were all absolutely huge," she said. "They ate a load of sandwiches and joked they were hungry every couple of hours and had to stop to get food. We said maybe we should stop serving them and they wouldn't have enough energy to beat New Zealand and they laughed about it."

Team liaison Xavier Duval said the players loved the sporting rivalry talked up during their visit. They even did a haka, although they didn't do it very well, Mr Duval said.

The players also went to the beach for a swim.

The Marlborough Express