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Trinh-Duc visits on 'homecoming' tour

French rugby star Francois Trinh-Duc of Vietnamese descent stops off in Phnom Penh this weekend as part of his Asia tour

A leading light of the rugby world is returning to his Southeast Asian roots for the first time this Saturday. Fran?ois Trinh-Duc, one of the first-ever rugby players of Vietnamese origin to play for the France national rugby team, will arrive early Saturday evening in Phnom Penh for a two-day trip working with local rugby communities and visiting charities.

Trinh-Duc, 23, plays fly-half for Montpellier in the French Top 14 Competition, and earned his first international cap for France in 2008. He has now played 21 times for his country, was one of the stars of the 2010 RBS Six Nations Championship, and is heralded as the star playmaker to lead an exciting young team at next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Trinh-Duc’s Asian heritage comes from his grandfather, Trinh Duc Nhien, who emigrated from Vietnam to France during the First Indochina War. Nienh had left his war-torn home to start a new life near Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne region in southwest France. There he met and married an Italian woman, from whom Trinh-Duc’s father, Philippe was born.

Peter Maley, general secretary of the Cambodian Rugby Federation, is delighted by the French fly-half’s impending visit. “It is great news and exposure for Cambodian rugby,” he said Thursday. “It’s fantastic to get an international star of Francois’ quality out here.”

Maley explained how Trinh-Duc’s visit has been set up through the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) as part of an initiative to develop relationships with rugby stars as “Asian Rugby Ambassadors”. With his Malaysian heritage, former England-international winger Rory Underwood is one such ambassador.

According to Maley, the driving force behind the program in the Kingdom is Robbie McRobbie of ARFU and the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, with sponsorship from Standard Chartered Bank, and locally from NagaWorld Hotel and Casino.

Trinh-Duc expressed the significance of making his first-ever visit to the region.

“My name is Vietnamese; my origins are Vietnamese. I am proud to be Vietnamese,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald in June last year.

During his time in Cambodia, Trinh-Duc will be attending several public events. On Saturday at 8pm, there will be an informal meet-and-greet session with Francois at the Lycee Rene Descartes school in Phnom Penh, as well as a Youth Rugby session with junior teams at the PSE sports field at 2pm Sunday.

In between both events, the player will pay a visit to French NGO “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant” in Steung Meanchey district, which itself has a part in Cambodian Rugby history. The charity, which looks after poverty-stricken children, began to teach rugby to Cambodian children in January 2000, which soon spread to other local schools and led to the sport being added to the Associated Schools Programme of UNESCO in Cambodia. The charity also has close ties to rugby side Stade Khmer, who play in the domestic league.

Prior to his visit to Cambodia, Trinh-Duc travelled to Hong Kong to take part in similar activities, and on Monday lunchtime will leave for Laos on the final stop of his tour before returning home.



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