Lyon flanker Carl Fearns talks Bath, Burgess and bidding for promotion

Lyon are 11 points clear of their rivals at the top of the ProD2, France’s second division, and at the heart of their success in the first half of the season is Carl Fearns. The former Bath back-rower, who was part of the England U20 side that reached the final of the 2009 IRB Junior World Championship, has been one of Lyon’s standout performers. Selected three times in the last two months in Midi Olympique‘s XV of the Week, the 26-year-old Fearns tells us about life in France and that tweet he sent on hearing of Sam Burgess’s departure from Bath…

Rugby World: Why did you move to Lyon?

Carl Fearns: I wanted a new challenge and when Lyon came in it was a no-brainer. When I signed for two years I knew they were ambitious and wanted to get back into the Top 14. So it was always part of my plan to come into the club when they were in ProD2, play a season and establish myself, and hopefully go up to the Top 14.

RW: Was it hard to leave Bath?

CF: I wasn’t starting as many games as I would have liked. I was coming off the bench, making a big impact and wasn’t really getting rewarded. When I re-signed for Bath it was under Gary Gold and when he left (in December 2013) the club didn’t really seem the same to me. So I hadn’t been happy for probably a year.

RW: Were you pushed out?

CF: No, I wasn’t. It was my decision, I wanted to leave.

Carl Fearns

Eyes front: Carl Fearns on the attack for Bath last season. Photo: Getty Images

RW: What about the fans?

CF: I miss them. I felt I had a lot of support from the fans and I think that’s because whenever I played for Bath I gave everything and I they appreciated that.

RW: How have you settled in France?

CF: Really well. I’ve two children and my little boy (who’s three) is going to an international school and he’s loving that. There are a lot of South African and Australian players at Lyon so my wife spends a lot of time with their wives and girlfriends.

RW: How’s the French?

CF: I’m doing lessons twice a week and slowly getting there. I’ve hit a wall now! I was doing really well and now it’s slowed up a bit, but I’m cracking on with it.

RW: What’s the biggest differences between the Premiership and ProD2?

CF: Probably the speed of it. Here it’s not as quick as the Premiership. But then there are big, big men in this league and it’s just as physical, if not more.

RW: Does that suit your style more?

CF: A little bit, yes. But also the fact I’m enjoying my rugby again. At Lyon I’m getting my hands on the ball more and I’m more involved.

RW: You toured South Africa with England in 2012 but there’s been nothing since…

CF: That was a factor in coming to France. I’d spent about eight seasons in the Premiership and never really got a look-in with England apart from the tour. Stuart Lancaster said that I was one of the standout players in the last midweek game (a win over the SA Barbarians North) but wasn’t in any of the next squads.

Nick Abendanon

Fine form: Nick Abendanon on the burst for Clermont v Bordeaux. Photo: Getty Images

RW: Should England pick players from French clubs?

CF: I think you pick best players regardless of where they play. Nick Abendanon and Steffon Armitage won European Player of the Year awards and if they were in the England squad, it would help drive people to make sure the way they were performing was at the top level.

RW: Lyon are running away with ProD2, is it hard to keep focused?

CF: No. We’ve got an experienced bunch and we’re putting pressure on ourselves from within to keep working hard. We lost to Perpignan at the weekend (20-16) and we know that everyone in the league is after us so we’ve got to expect teams to raise their game against us.

RW: Can Lyon survive if promoted to the Top 14?

CF: The club has gone up and down in recent seasons and they’re addressing that. Foundations are being laid that I think, with some hard work and a few more additions in the summer, will see us shock a few people in the Top 14.

RW: When Sam Burgess left Bath you tweeted eight weeping faces. Why?

CF: It wasn’t aimed at him, I really liked Burgess. It was more the situation at Bath.

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