Adrien Pelissie -- meteoric rise of unheralded French farmer's son
Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP)
A couple of seasons ago, Adrien Pelissie was earning 800 euros a month combining the arduous graft of scrumming down in second division French rugby with work as a school supervisor.
But in a telling testament to a player who has never given up his dream, the 27-year-old will run out at Cardiff's Principality Stadium after being named run-on hooker for France's Six Nations finale against Wales on Saturday.
To say Pelissie is largely unknown to the wider rugby union audience would be a massive understatement.
His newly created Wikipedia page in English is not exactly rich in detail.
"Adrien Pelissie (born 7 August 1990) is a French rugby union player. His position is hooker and he currently plays for Bordeaux-Begles in the Top 14," it says in its entirety.
Pelissie only joined Bordeaux this season from Aurillac, who ply their trade in the second division Pro D2.
Bordeaux at the time were coached by now-France coach Jacques Brunel, who had taken on Aurillac coach and former Ireland international Jeremy Davidson to handle the forwards. Pelissie was quick to follow.
"I'm very proud even if we must not forget that it is a combination of circumstances and that somewhere the misfortune of some means the happiness of others," Pelissie said in reference to the absence through injury of France skipper Guilhem Guirado.
"It's not that I don't feel legitimate, I remain very humble. I wasn't in the opening squad list (announced in mid-January by Brunel). Now I am and I want to continue to be on it."
Brunel admitted that the farmer's son didn't have "the same level, not at all the same profile" as Guirado.
"He's had a rollercoaster of a ride -- six months ago he was at Aurillac," the coach said.
"But we have confidence in him. He'll have to show he's capable of stepping up a further level by becoming a potential starter."
- Things gone quickly -
Pelissie admitted that he had not expected his career to pan out as the way it has.
"No, not at all," he said. "When I was 18 I played for Caussade in Federale 3," the fifth division of rugby in France.
"I went to Montauban for one year to try it out, then they went into the Pro D2 and I left for Castres where I joined their training set-up. But they said I wasn't at a level to play in the Top 14 so let me go.
"I had the chance to go to Aurillac with a coach who had confidence in me, Jeremy Davidson. In four seasons, he played me a lot and from there I managed to go to Bordeaux and things went very quickly."
Pelissie was full of praise for Aurillac, saying it was a professional club "unlike others".
"It remains a family club, in a rural setting. The Pro D2 is a world which made me. When you go to play Vannes with Aurillac, it's an 11-hour bus ride -- you have to love rugby even if you're professional," he said.
"At the start when I arrived at Aurillac, I was playing in Pro D2 but I wasn't even a full-time professional, I was a school supervisor.
"I slept three nights a week in a secondary school and played with the professional team on the weekend. I was earning 800 euros a month."
Pelissie's father runs a farm with his brother and uncle in Septfonds, in the southwestern department of Tarn-et-Garonne. There are beef and dairy cattle as well as sheep.
"I'm never at the farm, but it's something dear to me and I envisage taking on the family farm later on in life," he said.
"If Jeremy Davidson hadn't trusted me, I would have gone back and played with my mates in Federale."
© 2018 AFP