Wallabies prop Sekop Kepu says a stint in France made him appreciate home more.
Kepu signed with Top 14 side Bordeaux after last year’s Rugby World Cup, but ultimately opted to return to NSW and Australia in June, committing to a three-year deal.
The 30-year-old had to make a call that was the best for his family, who struggled to adapt to a new country away from their close support networks.
“Family is a massive thing for myself, I struggled and the family struggled a bit, two boys under three for my wife, by herself and away from everyone and what she’s used to, that was always tough,” he said.
“But it was a learning experience for both of us.”
Kepu said his time in France made him realise how much playing for the Waratahs and Wallabies meant, though he could still have been available for Test rugby in France.
“It was a good reality check to come over here. To get the opportunity to play Test Rugby is very rare so everything worked out in the end, and I’m very grateful to be back here in France with the Wallabies,” he said.
“You’re hungry to play Test Rugby and play at the top level every week and you want to put your best foot forward.”
In less than a season Kepu said he developed as a player in a country that “loves" scrums.
“I'm very grateful and happy to go back home but I thoroughly enjoyed the football side of it,” he said. “I learned a lot in the six months I was here and in terms of (being) a front rower it really helped me with that knowledge - you're forever learning as a prop, regardless of what stage of your career you're in.
“I came up against a lot of these guys that we'll be facing on the weekend and the beauty of being in this competition is you play guys from different countries.
“That was a massive learning curve for me. If I can share that with the guys, my fellow front rowers and the forward pack, that'll be one of the things I can take out from coming over here earlier in the year.”
One of those who Kepu came to know quite well was Bordeaux’s Jefferson Poirot, who has been ruled out of Saturday’s Test with injury.
“He's a great young guy coming through and obviously to lose him is massive for the French side, but they've got a lot of guys coming through,” he said.
“There's no shortage of front rowers here. Regardless of who they're going to put there they're always going to be a challenge.
“Their scrum is a weapon for them. We've got to prepare ourselves as best we can.
“They're renowned for it. They love it here.
“They're at home and if we can nullify that and keep the crowd out of the game, that'll go a long way to giving us a bit of success.”
Despite his short-lived cameo in Bordeaux, Kepu said he hadn't necessarily ruled out a return to France post-2019.
“Who knows? I’m back in Australia until 2019 and depending on how the wheels hold up, there may be another opportunity, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.
Australia vs France will be shown LIVE on SBS and beIn Sport on Sunday November 19, kicking off at 7am AEDT.