Donnacha Ryan's French journey has been a success thus far despite a delayed start due to injury. At the heart of Racing 92's pack, Ryan drove them to a win against former-club Munster in Paris and into the knock-out rounds of the Champions Cup.
However, as Ryan told Off the Ball tonight, his initial stint wasn't all smooth sailing, and not just due to his injury. Ryan arrived in Paris without any French.
I speak French like a Spanish cow! I really had no French going over at the beginning at the start it was very difficult. We have two classes a week at the club, I'm studying with the Tongan and Samoan lad. I do my own Paris class on a Thursday.
When receiving treatment for his injury, Ryan struggled to communicate with his caregivers.
I had a cracked vertebra and a hernia so I ended up having to get a neck fusion so basically had to get an operation in Bordeaux and the nurse there didn't speak any English so the first question was 'es-tu célibataire?' are you single? I said 'no, ja'i un copain.' That means I have a boyfriend as opposed to 'la copine' so then I was like no, j'adore femme!
The next day she came in and says Comment allez-vous? so I was like 'Je suis tres chou' because I thought that meant I am very hot because I was warm but it actually meant something else! So, this 60-year-old nurse was like who the hell is this guy. I then learned the difference between cou and queue, cou is your neck, queue is the opposite end of your anatomy!
There was a calamity of things that spurred me on to start learning French.
There really was no greater fear than the Leaving Cert oral and the knowledge that one word pronounced slightly differently makes all the difference.
Apart from the uneasy beginnings, Ryan seems to have made the transition to France perfectly and will be crucial to any chance they have of success in the Top 14 or against Toulon in the Champions Cup.
The full interview is available here.