Jonathan Wisniewski is the form fly-half in the Top 14, scoring 55 points in his four appearances after moving to Grenoble from Racing Metro in the summer. Rested for last weekend’s trip to Oyonnax, Wisniewski’s importance to his team was apparent as Grenoble failed to pick up any points for the first time this season in their 40-27 defeat. With Philippe Saint-Andre announcing his 30-man squad for the autumn internationals next week there are many in France who feel the 29-year-old should be in Les Bleus squad. Rugby World spoke to the player who’s finally fulfilling his potential.
Are you surprised by Grenoble’s good start to the season?
No, not really. We have a great group of players and coaching staff. We enjoy training and playing together and there’s already a strong spirit.
Enjoy having South African Charl McLeod as your scrum-half?
Yes. He’s only been in France a few weeks but already he’s talking French. He’s an intelligent player, very adaptable, and he makes my life much easier.
How’s your English?
I learned a little at Racing. But most of the overseas player at Grenoble speak excellent French, and that’s another reason the squad has gelled so quickly. If everyone is speaking the same language on the pitch it helps.
Like the fact you and McLeod started the first four games?
It’s good for my confidence and my rhythm to have a scrum-half I feel comfortable with. Each week that we play together we understand each other’s game a little bit more and how we like to play. That’s one of the advantages of having a smaller squad: we don’t have so many players to rotate.
Pleased to have made Midi Olympique’s Team the Week twice already this season?
It’s flattering but I don’t jump out of bed each Monday looking to see if I’ve made the XV of the Week! I hear about it on social media. The greatest satisfaction is being part of a team that’s playing well and winning.
Unlike a lot of French tens you have an excellent kicking game!
I suppose I do have a more Anglo-Saxon approach to kicking than a lot of French tens traditionally do. I’ve always loved working on that part of my game, it’s a passion and pleasure for me. When I was young my friends would be off to the cinema or in a café and I would be practicing my kicking.
Your family is in Paris, is that hard?
It was a little difficult at first but now I’m in a good rhythm, and it actually allows me to find a positive balance. When I’m in Grenoble I’m focused 100 percent on rugby with no distractions. When I get the train back to Paris to see my wife and son I am focused only on them and I can escape the pressures of rugby.
Why did you leave Racing?
I’m 29 and I wanted one final challenge. I had a good time at Racing but last season was difficult because I was injured a lot and they have a big squad so opportunities were limited. When the chance came to join Grenoble I took the decision quickly and I’m enjoying my rugby again and it’s great to have the confidence of the coaches. I feel good in my head that I made the right decision.
Bernard Jackman is coach at Grenoble, how does he differ from French coaches?
There’s a lot of structure and planning at Grenoble, things are well organized. But at the same time Bernard wants us to play with ‘French flair’. It’s a good mix. We’ll play expansive rugby but will be pragmatic when necessary.
Have you given up on playing for France?
No, it’s what I dream of, what I’m ultimately working for, so I hope I’m being watched (by the coaches). Every Frenchman dreams of wearing the French shirt and it would be great to be given that chance. I believe I have something to offer still and I haven’t given up on being capped.
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Not worried that playing for a so-called smaller club might harm your prospects?
I hope the coaches watch all the clubs, and I think they do because a club like Castres have had a lot of players capped recently. But the reason I came to Grenoble was to play regularly and if I’m not selected it’s not the end of the world. I’ll keep working hard but the most important thing is I’m playing regularly and enjoying my rugby.