Former Edinburgh Accies players Ryan Godsmark and Robin Snape are thriving in France, having seized the opportunity to join Auxerre following a tip-off from Accies prop Clement Lacour, whose father is a coach at the Federal Division Three outfit’s academy.
Both were tempted by the opportunity to sample French culture and focus on rugby, with the aim of helping Auxerre win promotion this season. And they have already made a big impression. The ambitious club, based 110 miles south east of Paris in the Burgundy region, has posted wins in four of their five matches so far to top the league table. The most recent success was a ten-try demolition of Pont a Mousson in which Godsmark bagged his fifth touchdown of the campaign, taking him level with Snape in the scoring charts.
“I had been speculating about other overseas clubs, ideally in France. I spoke with Clem and, at the same time, Auxerre were looking for a scrum half so he contacted them and they flew me over for a trial”, explains Godsmark, who turned down options to play elsewhere and accepted Auxerre’s offer before alerting Snape to the fact that the club was also seeking a flanker.
“Ryan made me aware of the chance to come and play in France,” said Snape. “Clement, being from Auxerre, told me a bit more about Auxerre, the rugby club, the players and the coach, which were all positive. At the time, I wasn’t looking to play abroad but thought it was too good an opportunity to miss and I feel that I made a good decision.”
Having lived in France as a child because of his father’s work, Snape already spoke French and the 29-year-old has polished up his linguistic skills working in a local business. Godsmark was a novice but is well on the way to achieving his goal of speaking the language in six months.
With the team comprising a mix of players who study or work, training sessions take place three times a week, with matches on Sundays. Overseas players have accommodation beside the ground and that enables them to use the gym located at the club, which has strong links with the local community.
That connection to the town of around 40,000 people has been particularly helpful for Godsmark, who has chosen to work as a coach at a local school and combine that role with teaching.
“It is a very good sporting set-up and the facilities are really good with three really well maintained fields,” added Godsmark. “A job is optional. However, I opted to do a few hours a week helping out at one of the schools, coaching, and also help within a sports class with students trying to learn English. This is only a few hours a week but allows us to train more often.”
Both players have already been standout performers in a league they assess as being similar in standard to the level of BT National One, where Accies currently operate. Securing promotion is a tough process with the competition played in regional leagues and the leading 32 clubs across France then involved in play-offs.
Godsmark acknowledges that securing the step-up will be a difficult task, but is confident that his new team is equipped for the challenge, adding: “The difference is, if you have a good forward pack, there are not many teams in Fed 3 that will compete.”
The future for both players will depend to a large extent on how the season unfolds as Snape outlines, saying, “The goal is to get promoted to Federal Two. For me, I would like to have a good season and keep progressing in skill, strength and fitness. Learning French is a big goal and in the longer term I may look to stay in France.”
Godsmark hopes the season will act as a springboard to a higher level of rugby, but for now he is satisfied with how his life is progressing.
“I don’t think I will be back in Scotland next season as things are too good where I stand. I feel I wasn’t going anywhere in Scotland and thought I had to try something different,” he said. “France is good for now and I’ll keep taking each game as it comes. Everything seems to be going in the right direction.”