The Montpellier forward has thrived since leaving South Africa. By Kit Shepard
Who is Paul Willemse: Ten things you should know about the France lock
Paul Willemse is an industrious lock for Montpellier and France.
He completed a long journey to representing les Bleus after playing for South Africa at youth level.
Ten things you should know about Paul Willemse
1. Paul Willemse was born on 13 November 1992 in Pretoria. He stands at 6ft 7in (2.01m) and is 21st 4lb (135kg).
2. He grew up in Namibia before returning to South Africa in 2010 to attend Monument High School in Gauteng.
3. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2012 for the Lions and moved to the Bulls for the 2013 season.
4. Willemse represented South Africa at U20 level, winning the IRB Junior World Championship in 2012.
5. Willemse moved north to Top 14 side Grenoble in 2014.
He and his wife, Chanique, moved to France the day after their marriage, with Willemse, speaking to AFP, describing the trip as “our honeymoon”.
6. In 2015, he teamed up with former Springboks coach Jake White at Montpellier and won the European Challenge Cup in his first season.
7. Willemse and his wife decided to bring up a family in France after their first child, also named Paul, was born in 2017. Writing for Bros. Stories, Willemse admitted: “I want him to grow up in an environment, that according to me, is better to raise a child in, than in my country of origin, South Africa.”
8. Willemse endured a lengthy administrative process when applying for French eligibility.
From 2017, he qualified under the three-year residency rule, but had to prove that his inclusion in South Africa’s U20 side in 2012 did not tie him to his country of birth. Once the paperwork was complete, he debuted for les Bleus in 2019 against Wales.
9. His first international try came in France’s 27-23 victory away to Wales in the 2020 Six Nations.
10. Continuing his eventful history with the Welsh, Willemse was sent off for striking Wyn Jones’s eye area during a clearout in the 2021 Six Nations meeting between the countries.
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