[ top 14 ]
t was in January 2015 that Stephen Brett felt how
physical Top 14 can be during a game against his
former Bayonne side. He may even have thought he
had ended up in a Bruce Lee movie after he took a
teammate’s boot in the chin. “I was knocked out straight
away,” he says. “It took a wee while for me to remember
what happened. I didnt know it was a knock from one of
my teammates until the guys told me.
My partner was pretty worried, but I managed to give
her a call from the stand to tell her I was okay.”
The Bayonne supporters, who had made him the
scapegoat for all their bitterness, clapped him off the
pitch. Brett was knocked out, and his club Lyon, are
pretty much in the same state. Early this year, it became
clear the team would have to fight for survival in Top 14.
Tim Lane, the head coach, was dismissed and Olivier
Azam, forwards coach, took over. With their captain
Lionel Nallet acting as spokesperson, the players took
matters into their own hands.
They simplified their gameplan, hoping to be more
effective and salvage their season. “We had too many
moves,” Brett explains. “We needed to simplify our ball
game completely.The team promised to ‘go out all guns
blazing’, which they did. But it has not been enough.
Despite all their motivation, Lyon fell short on their
objective. Brett regrets missed opportunities. They came
close to winning important games against big teams. “We
have the players to be in the top half I believe, but we just
haven’t been able to cross the line. Weve lost five close
matches against Grenoble, Racing and Brive.
“If we had been able to win those games, we would
be in a completely different situation at the moment. If
we hadn’t dropped those balls against a team like
Toulon we would have come away with a win.”
Consequently, come May, Brett and his fellow players
were back to square one: Pro D2. The French second
division. And for the Waiouru-born first ve-eighth,
rugby in France seems to be less easy than it may have
seemed from afar.
Brett landed on the Atlantic coast of France back in
2013, joining his former Blues teammate Joe Rokocoko,
Wales Mike Phillips and Wallaby Mark Chisholm in
Bayonne. He wanted to discover something new after
two seasons playing for the Toyota Verblitz in Japan. “It’s
just unbelievable,” he says of Japanese rugby. “They’re
tiny but they can run and run and runThey were just
running for the sake of running. There was no philosophy
behind it.”
After A tough first yeAr in frAnce with BAyonne,
stephen Brett shifted to Lyon where the former
BLues And crusAders no 10 hAs found himseLf.