Gabin Villiere all but ends Andrew Conway’s Test career
Gabin Villiere utterly dominated Ireland wing Andrew Conway in Paris last night.
That’s no slight on Conway. The Toulon wing was just immense. So powerful either side of the ball.
It’s a far cry from where he started. In fact he started rugby late and was thought to be useless in his first professional club.
Villiere was very nearly written off as young rugby player. Former teammate Ben Mercer at Rouen wrote this about him a few years ago.
“We had a teammate at Rouen who was very bad at rugby,” wrote the now-retired Mercer. “He played scrum-half and wore a scrum cap. Never a good sign. He had enormous hands that got in the way when he tried to pass and enormous feet that shanked box kicks everywhere but straight down the field.
“He belonged in the B team and even then he belonged on the bench. He was already 18 and was unlikely to improve very much. One day he came off the bench and came alive running with the ball. He still couldn’t pass but he could run a bit. He moved to centre where he could run some more.
“In the meantime, he was in the gym every day. He was still skinny and awkward but he was getting stronger and quicker every month. He was still bad but he kept working on his game. After a year he was playing for the B team in the centre.
“The year after he scored every time he played for the B team and sometimes played for the first team. The year after that he moved to the wing and began to score tries for the first team. He didn’t stop scoring them. The year after he played for the national 7s team. The year after he signed for one of the biggest teams in the country. The year after that he got picked for the national team.
“The big hands that couldn’t pass now meant he could hand people off, steal the ball in the ruck and score tries one-handed. His big feet still didn’t help him kick but they powered him around the field, now one of the fittest, fastest and most elusive players.”
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