Players of a French under-14 rugby team arrived in Whakatāne on Tuesday and were told not to go to sleep.

The team is one of 30 that will descend on the Eastern Bay this weekend for the New Zealand Junior Rugby pre-season festival.

The team and about 50 supporters from Aix En Provence region will spend a week in Whakatāne leading up to the festival.

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


"We picked them up from the airport yesterday and they were pumped. Over lunch we told them they had to stay awake for the rest of the day."

He said the team would get an authentic taste of local culture staying at Kokohinau Marae in Te Teko and would 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 travelling to France at some stage."

Campbell said the Junior Rugby Festival was about bringing together players from a range of backgrounds for an experience they would 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 the 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.


Games will be played at Whakatāne's Rugby Park.