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Interview with Damien Chouly

USAP and ASM’s iconic backrower Damien Chouly, is one of those players who will never cease to impress with their longevity and track record. We had the chance to have a conversation with the French international (46 caps) about his career and his personal goals and projects.

Damien Chouly started his playing career with RC Palaisien club (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), before
being offered a professional contract with Brive in 2004. From there he joined Perpignan winning a
French Championship title in 2009, which he also won with Clermont-Ferrand in 2017. On this list of
achievements we must not forget to mention he became a World Champion with the French under
21 squad in 2006.

Damien, you have played in the Top 14 for a long time, why did you decide to join
USAP in the second division?

I think it was the best choice, at 35, I had to make a decision about my career. I didn’t want to
go back to a new club, a new city. The USAP offered me a nice challenge with the aim of going up
in the Top 14. Going back to Perpignan, with my family, to a city and a club that I knew well, was the
best thing that could happen to me.

USAP has had a strong start to the season and looks well placed to get promoted back
to the TOP14. How excited are you at the possibility of returning to the top league ?

Our main objective is to go back up in the Top 14. This is clearly what we said at the
beginning of the season.

You have managed to lift the Brennus’ shield twice, what did it feel like when you were
a French champion a second time with the ASM, what were the differences with winning the
first title?

The context of these titles is completely different, just in terms of age. With Perpignan I was
still young, I was 21 years old and we wanted to go as far as possible in the competition but we
didn’t think we were champions. We were several young people in the team and it was really
amazing to see all the support we had and the number of Catalans who came up to push us during
the final phases. With Clermont, I already had a lot more experience, I was captain and becoming
French champion was clearly part of our objectives. This award was truly a personal and collective
achievement. The atmosphere around our title was crazy too, especially for the public who waited
for it after several losses in the final phases. Incidentally, I was not able to celebrate my first title
with the USAP because I left to go on tour with the French team to New Zealand just afterwards.
But I made up for it with Clermont!

Throughout your career, which player has most impressed you?
It’s hard to remember just one single player, I had the chance to play against many great
players, but if I had to say those who had impressed me the most, I will say the team of All Blacks
that we faced during my first International tour with the French Team. I was only 21 years old and
playing against stars like Jerry Collins, Mils Muliaina, Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu, it was
fantastic. Not so long before, I had watched the All Blacks play on the TV, they inspired me want to
play rugby and suddenly I found myself facing them, it was very exciting.

You had the opportunity to play with the Barbarians in both Japan and Argentina, how
did these tours go?

Touring with the Barbarians is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful moments of my
career. The Barbarians is a mix between professional and amateur rugby ethos, we trained about
an hour a day and we visited some fabulous places, I had the chance to discover both Japan and
Argentina. Then we played a high-level games against those International teams. These tours also
made it possible to make friends with players who have always been our opponents. This allowed
us to create ties, and I think that this great solidarity was felt on the tour.

At International level, you have 46 French caps, what is your best memory with « les
Bleus»?

It was a beautiful period of my playin g career but complicated one, we did not win a title. But
playing for the French team is something that all French players want and aspire too. It is with great
pride for any French player to be able to represent our country at the highest level. But if I had to
hold on for a single moment, I would choose our tours, especially the ones to New Zealand.

Speaking of the French team, how do you like the latest generation of the French XV,
do you think it can be one of the favourites for the next World Cup?

I hope so! There is a real osmosis in this team, it plays well and above all it wins! I think that
the French team has a great chance to be successful in the next World Cup, and besides we will
play at home !

Without mentioning the French team, Who are your favourites for the next World Cup
in France?

I think England will be ready, the English have a great team and they are always ready for
the big events. South Africa is also among the favourites, if they manage to maintain the level they
managed to produce in the last World Cup, they will be very hard to beat and might just retain their
title.

Have you always wanted to become a professional rugby player ? Is this something
you’ve always wanted since you were a child?

Not really, I started to really want to become a professional rugby player when I was
indentified by the local professional academy at around the age of 15, as a player with potential and
promise. That’s when I thought, I wanted to make it my job !

You played for clubs known for their great support and their fans, what is the stadium
and the fans that have most impressed you?

Perpignan and Clermont both have great fans. These clubs represent the lungs of
their regions, at a time when there were still people in the stadiums (laughs ironically as at the time
of the interview, no fans
are allowed into the stadiums becasuse of COVID 19). This support is really important when
one is close to the opposing Tryline, the extra support that the fans give us is really important.

What are your main goals at the post-rugby level?
It will depend mainly on my family, my decision will depend on my loved ones. I don’t know
yet whether I want to stay away from rugby or whether I want to stay in rugby. I think and I hope that
I will still want to stay in the middle, because rugby is a real passion for me.

Outside of Rugby what interests you ?
I really like music, I listen to it a lot, without being a great singer (laughts).

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