Pierce making French connection

Coldstream's Cam Pierce adapting to rugby life in France.

Cam Pierce (left) goes up for a lineout while playing with ASM Clermont Auvergne Academy in France.

Cam Pierce (left) goes up for a lineout while playing with ASM Clermont Auvergne Academy in France.

You may not have recognized rugby star Cam Pierce at the Canada Day weekend Funtastic slo-pitch tournament.

He was dressed in plaid and wearing a cowboy hat, not for disguise, but because his team chose the duds for the fun and frolics. It was his way of unwinding after a week of training with the Canadian men’s team in Vancouver.

“After Vancouver I hung out with all my good friends back in Coldstream,” said Pierce. “Highlight of being home was Funtastic weekend. I played on a team with a bunch of my buddies, mostly Kal ‘09 grads. None of us knew how to play ball but the Hometown Hicks managed to take third place in the Costume Division.”

Pierce worked out at Kal Fitness for two weeks prior to the national training.

“It was good being a part of the team as I am doing a Canada tour to Argentina in October, mainly consisting of Team Canada, minus their oversea pros. That tour is in preparation for the November European tour with the full top team so if I do well, then hopefully I will have a Canada cap before the end of 2012.”

Pierce, 21, is immersed in the French culture as he plays rugby and goes to school as part of an apprenticeship with the ASM Clermont Auvergne Academy, in Clermont-Ferrand, one of the country’s oldest cities (population 150,000).

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound second row player was recruited after playing internationally for Team Canada Under 20. He played high school for the Kalamalka Lakers.

Like most of the players in the academy, Pierce is enrolled at the university, where he takes a French course four days a week. Each week, the team lifts weights four times, trains three times and does a captain’s run the day before a game.

“They were pleased with my season although I didn’t play much during the second half due to a herniated cervical disc. I got offered to re-sign this year with a small payment increase. All around I was pretty pleased with how it went. I am shooting for a pro contract with ASM during the next two years, otherwise I will look elsewhere in France.”

ASM defeated Perpignan 22-19 in 20 minutes of overtime, in the U23 league final. It was 16-16 at the end of regulation after ASM scored a late try.

“The season went great, we were U23 Champions de France for the third year in a row. I will hopefully have a starting position this year rather than being a sub and moving between the U21 and U23s. They play a very physical style of play and are pretty picky in playing your role.

“There are a lot more skilled players here than back home because of the age they start, same as us with hockey. I scored four tries with the U21s, none with U23s, and had a few scraps with both teams.

“I felt that I was a standout player on the U21s but was pretty average with the U23s since we have a lot of players who are up and down between the pro team and U23s. It’s a very good level for progression and exposure. This year I will have a bigger role on the team so that will help with my future as a player.”

Besides Jamie Cudmore from last year’s Canadian World cup team, there is another Canadian new to the club this year: Conor McCann (1993) from Bobcaygeon, Ont., who can play anywhere in the backs.

“He is doing pre-season with the pro team. He has become a good buddy and crashed on my floor for three months after they asked him to stay in February.”

Pierce has made loads of friends from all over the world at school.

“French exams haven’t changed at all for me since high school, where I was too cocky and didn’t study so I ended up barely brushing by. This year I am taking Geography and History courses in French which will be super hard but should be fun and help me with the language. I also have a meeting in August to discuss becoming a volunteer firefighter at the fire hall near my apartment so I’m pretty stoked on that.”

Pirece has all his living expenses and a lot of extras covered, along with flights home twice a year.

Training camp is well under way and consists of 7 a.m. team breakfast and ends at 4 p.m.with a small break for lunch. Training normally consists of swimming, boxing/MMA, hill running, speed training, weights and skills.

“I have been doing a fair amount of rehab on my neck lately (C3/C4 herniated disc) so it has been fine and should hold up as long as I continue to work on it. Latest little injury was a broken nose while with Team Canada; that makes three or four so it’s starting to look pretty crooked.”

Clermont-Ferrand is famous for hosting one of the world’s leading international festivals for short films, the Festival du Court Metrage de Clermont-Ferrand, as well as the corporate headquarters of Michelin, the global tire company created more than 100 years ago.