Former St Joseph’s College student Dan Lewis making a name for himself at French club, Oyonnax
- Credit: Archant
Former St Joseph’s College schoolboy Dan Lewis has ambitions to make a name for himself across the Channel, as he reflects on his first few months with French Top 14 team, Oyonnax.
The 19-year-old, part of the successful Joey’s squad that won the Ipswich College’s prestigious rugby festival in 2013, signed a one-year deal with the eastern France-based outfit in the summer.
Lewis is currently featuring for his new team’s under-23 side, and is keen on impressing the hierarchy at Oyonnax and ultimately earning himself a longer stay in the Rhône-Alpes region.
The Colchester-born fly half admitted he took time to adjust to his new surroundings but is relishing the opportunity he has been given.
“It was fairly tough at the start, which I was expecting,” he said.
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“Not only was the rugby different, so was the lifestyle, I went from boarding at St Jo’s to living on my own, washing and cooking for myself.
“Oyonnax are renowned for being a family-orientated club though and all the boys made myself and Zack (Farrance from Oaklands College) integrated into the group quickly.
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“It’s been a massive step up, from playing under-18s rugby to coming up against people who are three or four years older than you. Each team (in the under-23 league) is also allowed to field five pro-contract players.
“I have also had the opportunity to train with the first team which was exciting and everything is going well.
“A few results didn’t go our way at the start of the season, but since the turnaround it’s been much better and I have been getting game-time at number 10.”
Lewis, who has also represented Northampton Saints and Saracens, was one of a quartet of St Jo’s schoolboys to receive a professional deal in the summer, Lewis Ludlam signing a one-year deal with Northampton, George Wacokecoke likewise with Bath and Karl Wilkins a three-year deal at fellow French team Clermont Auvergne.
England Under-20 star Ludlam is currently injured but has been playing as a dual-registered player with Coventry this season, while Wacokecoke has made the bench for Bath’s first team.
While they will have ambitions to make it in this country, Wilkins and Lewis have different aims right now.
“The main attraction being out here is that if you stay for three years, you become a JIFF (Joueurs Issus des Filières de Formation) player and are eligible for France,” explained Lewis.
“The Top-14 has a quota rule meaning that so many players in each squad must be eligible to represent France, so if that opportunity arose, it would be my aim to take it.”