Confessions of a rugby journeyman: Gloating rivals, money worries – and still loving the game

0
35

“Because rugby is on television everyone thinks you are on big bucks but that is very few guys and as sevens players we were bottom of the tree,” he says. “It was chaos. Without the support of our families giving us a loan, we would have been toast because the GB sevens contracts were short-term.

“All the hard work I had put into my rugby career to get onto the property ladder to be booted off it because I was made redundant. We were only able to buy on the Isle of Wight because of that family support.”

A short-term deal from Harlequins offered solace in late 2020 and even a Premiership winner’s medal, with De Carpentier having played the minimum requirement of four league games. Quins wanted to keep him until the end of the season but the chance of another crack at sevens proved irresistible, particularly as he had been overlooked for the squad for the 2016 Rio Games.

Having been told to work on his defence, De Carpentier was sure he had done enough to secure a spot in the squad, only for head coach Tony Roques to leave him out. De Carpentier was devastated, not least as the decision was overseen by Charlie Hayter, the GB Team Leader and – as he puts it – “a very close friend”.

At the time, De Carpentier was so shocked he could barely move when he was told the news: he simply sank on to a wall at the Great British base in Loughborough. Even now, the emotion of the memory is enough to make his voice crack.

“I have to constantly remind myself not to be really negative and bitter about it,” he says. “Especially when I see some lads who went ahead of me… I think they are good rugby players but I think I would have brought something different.

“In the Games, in matches against Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina, they were dominated physically, getting smashed in breakdowns. I know that I am a heavy lump and I am good at not getting cleared out.”

Mingled with the pain was regret at how he had turned down Harlequins. “I just felt like a d—. The last message I had from [Harlequins coach] Jerry Flannery was really nice and said: ‘Good luck medal hunting.’ I was so embarrassed.”

Consolation came in two forms – some kind words from Simon Amor, his old coach – “he told me: ‘Looks like they could have done with you out there'” – and being able to spend the summer with Rudi.

“That gave me a massive sense of perspective,” De Carpentier adds. “The last time I missed out I did a lot of work with the psychologist Katie Warriner, who is now with Bath, on why I play rugby. I wasn’t going to be moping around when Rudi was there. That is what made it easier.”

Prioritising family is non-negotiable for De Carpentier, but the lifeline offered by Bath – and the tight Covid protocols that surround Premiership clubs – has not made that straightforward.

“After the Leinster game [in the Champions Cup] a few weeks ago, we got off the plane at 11pm and I drove straight down to Portsmouth,” he recalls. “I slept in the ferry terminal in the car and got on the ferry at 5am. I do that or I don’t see my son.”

De Carpentier is not seeking sympathy and neither do Bath’s current struggles leave him disconsolate.  

“As much as things are good for me at Bath in terms of feeling valued and wanted, what I have been through is helping me deal with this now. I have been able to put stuff in perspective. I know losing a rugby match doesn’t make you a s— bloke.

“I say don’t give up. I have been told over my career by a couple of coaches that I am not good enough. If you want to do something you can do it if you kick on and try your best.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

+ 78 = 85