French first-choice fullback Brice Dulin was in Phnom Penh earlier this week in his role as ambassador for youth rugby development NGO Kampuchea Balopp. Stopping over on his way back to France after Les Bleus disastrous tour to Australia, the 24-year-old spoke to Post reporter Kevin Ponniah about France’s World Cup chances next year, his future and youth rugby in Cambodia.
France lost all three tests on its tour to Australia. Do you think this is a serious setback for the team?
It is never good for a team’s confidence to lose three matches in a row. But it was at the end of a long season and a lot of our players were very tired, though we shouldn’t use this as an excuse.
Our aim now is to bounce back, start from scratch and build up our confidence again to be ready for the World Cup in 2015.
What do you think France’s chances are at the World Cup?
Well, in such a competition, everyone arrives with more or less the same chance, and it all depends upon a lot of different parameters. France has as much of a chance as anyone else really.
But with all the preparation we are making and the confidence we can build up over the next year, we should have a strong card to play, although it is going to be very difficult.
How has the team changed since the last World Cup, when it lost in the final against New Zealand?
It has been building for the last few years. Compared to the last World Cup there are many players who have retired from Test rugby, so the team has rejuvenated itself.
It’s almost completely new and also we have a new coach, so we are still in the process of building up this team and doing the final tuning before the World Cup.
You ran a coaching session with more than 150 local kids on Sunday. How was it working with them for the first time in person as Kampuchea Balopp’s ambassador?
It gave me fresh perspective because I finally met the kids of the organisation that I represent. I was impressed by the level they could have here and the work achieved by [Kampuchea Balopp].
I knew that the facilities, the field, the surroundings, would be quite poor. The kids also have very little equipment and they play in no shoes on a field in poor condition, which is quite tough considering the heat.
But they are very receptive and engaging and their will to play and have fun helps them to forget all the challenges around them.
How can rugby help these kids to develop themselves?
First, sticking to all these rules can help them put structure into their life and it teaches them many values. But above all, it enables them to forget the difficulties they face in their everyday lives.
Were they excited to meet you?
There was a certain admiration in the way they were looking at me I guess, but although they understood that I was a rugby player it was hard for them to realise it since they don’t watch games on TV and have no exposure.
But we could feel they were listening and receptive to everything one can achieve on the field, what to do, how to move forward . . . I guess it is good for them to have someone that can make them dream a bit.
You’re in the early stages of what looks to be a very bright playing career. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It is going to be quite a surprising answer, but it’s probably the first match I played professionally on an international level against my older brother, who was playing for Auch Gers [a club in southwestern France] at the time. It remains one of my best memories, because everyone admires their older brother. It was a quite unique moment.
How did you start playing rugby?
My grandfather was playing rugby and was a strong supporter of the Agen team [another club in southwestern France]. He was living in Agen, 50 metres away from the stadium. So when I was a kid he was always taking me to a lot of games and that’s how I caught the rugby virus at an early age.
Is there a particular player that you are inspired by or have always looked up to?
I have never really had a role model. I’d say maybe [Jason] Robinson, the English fullback. I liked the fact that he was always creating danger when he received the ball, taking risks and relaunching the game from a challenging position.
I’m not trying to copy his style but it is quite natural to me to try to take risks like him. This is how I see the game and the style of play I prefer.
You’re changing clubs, from Castres Olympique to Racing Metro, in the French Top 14 next season. You also have the World Cup coming up. How are you feeling about the next few years of your career?
I am very impatient to discover the new club and it is very exciting that I may get the chance to participate in the World Cup. These are things that I would like to be living right now but it takes time.
I need to give myself the means to succeed, while keeping enjoying every moment on the field. I am looking forward to all of it and I know it is going to come soon, so my objective now is to work hard.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.