As part of the Norfolk NATO Festival’s line-up of events and in the NATO spirit of international friendship, the Rugby Exhibition Match between the French Army XV du Pacifique team and the local Norfolk Blues team took place on Sunday, April 28, 2019 at Powhatan Field, Old Dominion University.
Supporters including members of the French community, NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) staff, and local rugby fans came out to cheer on the players of their respective team, and brought along their friends and family. The French Signals Band enhanced the atmosphere with performances that energized the crowd.
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General André Lanata and Mr. Kenneth Cooper Alexander, Mayor of Norfolk observed the official coin toss which was conducted by Lieutenant General Thomas J. Sharpy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Capability Development.
Prior to the kick-off, a proud cohort of Pacific Islanders from the French Army’s team performed the haka, a ceremonial dance in Maori culture.
The Norfolk Blues’ lock player Alex Czajkowski seemed happy with his team’s performance in the first half. “It went really well for our side, [the Pacifique] they’re a big physical team. We’re playing really well, coming up hard on defence.” The XV du Pacifique’s scrumhalf/flyhalf player Nicolas Duc also had some thoughts on his opponents and his hopes for the second half: “They [The Blues] are strong in the forward and they are very fast,” he said. “We will continue to give our best efforts and I hope we will win the game.”
In the final seconds, the Blues scored but the game ended with a victory for the XV du Pacifique with a close score of 24-19.
Mr. Mitchell MacCartney, Virginia Arts Festival Coordinator for the NATO Rugby Festival was extremely pleased about the success of the event’s organization and outcome. As a Hampton Roads local with rugby experience playing for the Blues as well as professionally in Europe, he was honoured to have participated in the planning and execution of the inaugural Norfolk NATO Festival Rugby Exhibition Match. He acknowledged the close teamwork and coordination between all of the partners involved in the success of the event. “These events can be complicated. There are lots of moving pieces that involve both civilian and military oversight. Fortunately we had such wonderful and dedicated people involved,” he said. “It was definitely a multi-faceted challenge. But with the support of both Council du Pacifique and Norfolk Blues this outstanding event was possible.”
A fascinating exhibition concluded a beautiful weekend of Norfolk NATO Festival events. The inaugural event demonstrated NATO’s commitment to diversity, unity, teamwork, and friendships, as well as the Alliance’s relationship with its local partners in the Hampton Roads region. Mr. MacCartney looks forward to the second annual rugby match. “We are proud of everyone and how it went. Our hope is to continue to grow and make things bigger and better each year. Thank you fans, and we look forward to celebrating military, culture, and athletics again with you at next year’s event!”