Lyon’s Liverpudlian back-row Carl Fearns on karaoke, pranks and misadventures in France

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Downtime with Lyon back-row Carl Fearns

Do you have any phobias?  

I don’t like deep-sea water. I hate swimming in the sea if I can’t see the bottom and I don’t like heights. I’ve got to keep this 120kg on solid ground.

What really winds you up? 

There are a lot of things that annoy me. But now I’m living the relaxed life in France, I try to let most of it go.

Who are the big jokers you’ve played with?

When I was at Bath, Ross Batty and Nathan Catt were very funny. And probably some of the Sandbach RUFC lads when I was at Sale Sharks, although they were more crazy.

Any practical jokes you can share?

Some of Batty and Catt’s best work was when they called up our kitman at Bath and offered him the British & Irish Lions job. He replied: “It would be an honour and a privilege, thank you so much!” He was nearly in tears.

Funny man: Nathan Catt is something of a joker (Getty Images)

Then there was the time they put his underpants on all the dummies on the training pitch just before our session in Portugal. They really did terrorise that poor man.

How is your French?

Pas mal. I understand French well now and I’m getting there on the speaking front. Most of the time when I try to speak French, people look at me in bemusement, then realise what I mean and say the exact same thing I said but with a better French accent.

I am absolutely loving it here in France. This Lyon team is the closest team I have ever been involved with. They are very emotional people here and I like that about them. You can’t get things done quickly in France, though.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

None. I’m already superhuman!

Do you have a nickname?

The Inferno. There is a rather embarrassing story behind it, too. During my first week at Lyon, we had a social after a pre-season camp in the middle of the woods. The lads made a big fire in the middle of the camp and I decided to drink a bottle of gin. I got up and tripped over a branch and went straight into the fire.

I remember Pierre, our coach, saying “You will play next week” as they put me into the ambulance. I woke up in the middle of a French hospital hallway with a lot of crude drawings on my chest. And then I wasn’t fit to play again for another three months.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen on the pitch? 

I’m usually on my hands and knees catching my breath so don’t see much!

How about your most embarrassing moment in rugby? 

While I was at Bath, I remember giving the Leinster crowd some stick during a Champions Cup quarter-final. Later, I took a high ball but one second later followed that up by throwing a pass straight over George Ford’s head.

Who would be your three dream dinner party guests and why?

It would be Frank Sinatra first. I’ve always listened to him since I was 12 years old and he’s one cool rooster. He can bring the cigars too…

Then Bobby Fischer. As a keen chess player, it would be great for him to take my game to the next level post dinner.

Lyon back-row Carl Fearns

Dinner guest: Chess master Bobby Fischer (Getty Images)

Alan Shearer is the last dinner guest. I supported Blackburn Rovers before I supported Liverpool, as my dad played for them back in the day and is from there. When Shearer left the club for Newcastle, I switched to Liverpool.

Any pre-match superstitions?

I always have a shave before games. But it’s just the face… not the legs.

Which team-mate would you like to be for a day and why?  

I would definitely like to be our scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud for a day because he’s rapid, he’s young and he’s good-looking.

Fine nine: Baptiste Couilloud on the attack for Lyon (Getty Images)

Who is the tightest team-mate you’ve ever had? 

It would have to be any of the South African lads at Lyon! They send all their cash back home at the start of the month after we’ve been paid.

Is there anyone you would like to be stuck in a lift with? 

It would be someone like Jimmy Carr so I could get some better banter.

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

I like all of the Pitch Perfect films. And yes, I do sing along with them.

Do you have any hidden talents? 

Not really, but I do like getting on the karaoke machine after a few too many drinks. I’ve been referred to many times as the songbird of my generation.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 edition of Rugby World.

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