A French rugby team is set to get a taste of Eastern Bay of Plenty hospitality when it arrives in Whakatāne this month for the New Zealand Junior Rugby pre-season festival.

The team and around 50 supporters from Aix En Provence region will spend a week in Whakatāne leading up to the festival. They will be joined by 30 other junior rugby teams from around New Zealand for the tournament, which is being held from 13-14 April.

Tyrone Campbell, of event organiser Global Games, said it was exciting to have a French team taking part this year.

“It’s fantastic to have the Under-14 team from Aix En Provence joining us from the other side of the world.  They’ll get an authentic taste of local culture staying at Kokohinau Marae in Te Teko and will also enjoy a number of experiences around the Whakatāne District.

“It also adds more to the experience for the kiwi teams coming to play and we hope the trip can be reciprocated with a New Zealand team traveling to France at some stage.”

Mr Campbell said the Junior Rugby Festival was about bringing together players from a range of backgrounds for an experience they’ll never forget.

“The festival gives young players the opportunity to travel, maybe for the first time, and experience something completely new. It’s very special and something the kids will remember forever.

“Whakatāne is a stunning part of New Zealand, a hidden gem, so it’s also a great chance to showcase the region,” he said.

The festival is being held in partnership with the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union and Whakatāne District Council. Te Teko and Paroa Rugby Clubs will host the event and in return, will receive free rugby equipment from the event organisers.

Two more junior rugby festivals will take place in Taupō and Queenstown following the Whakatāne pre-season event.