Paris a home away from home for Genia

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The crowd was belting out Le Marseillaise and willing Les Bleus to overcome the Wallabies in Paris, but Will Genia felt right at home at Stade de France.

Genia, who is currently playing with Stade Francais in the Top 14, said he felt just as comfortable in the Paris stadium as when he was back at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, his home ground for almost his entire career.

“It was weird, when we played the Springboks in Brisbane I felt like I was at home, I felt comfortable and then coming here as well was the same thing, felt really happy to be here and obviously having my family here makes me feel comfortable and familiar surroundings so it was good,” he said.

While his wife and daughter, Olivia, couldn’t make it to the game on Saturday night, Genia said the whole experience was unforgettable.

“It’s just amazing, it’s an amazing atmosphere to play in, it’s a great stadium and when there’s that many people to watch the game and passionate about their team doing well, for me that adds to the theatre of it,” he said.

“I enjoy it, I like the noise, I like the crowd and it makes it just a good vibe and you’re just happy to be out there playing and enjoying it.”

Genia was acutely aware of the French threat going into the game, still bearing the scars of a 29-26 loss to France on the 2014 Spring Tour, though he said that didn’t play on his mind until after the match on Saturday.

“It was a special win I think especially because we came here two years ago and we lost, we felt like we didn’t play well, we didn’t play our brand of rugby so to come out and play that way and come away with a tough win against a very good French team was very pleasing,” he said.

“It’s something you probably look back on after the game. In terms of our prep leading into this, we just spoke about just preparing as well as we can because we know that that performance will be a reflection of how we prepare during the week.

“Thinking about it afterwards it definitely feels pretty good to come away with the win after losing here two years ago.”

Genia played all bar the final two minutes of the clash in Paris, replaced by Nick Phipps in the 78th, but said he never lost faith in Australia’s ability to hang on.

>“I was happy the scrum wasn’t a penalty that’s first and foremost, but when it went into the phase play, I mean we did it last week against Scotland and I just back the defence and trust the systems and the guys did that and Phippsy got up there, put a little bit of pressure on the kick, which obviously caused him to miss and that’s what it’s about, really proud of the effort,” he said. 

“They’re the things you don’t notice, that split second of pressure you put on someone in that instance, he (France flyhalf Camille Lopez) shanks it just a little bit and it misses.

“Those little things accumulate over the 80 minutes and they result in us obviously getting the win.”

Australia’s focus moves to Ireland now, in what could be Genia’s final Wallabies match of the year, depending on whether Stade agrees to release him for a potential blockbuster against England, that falls outside the November Test window, but he said he was keen to savour the moment post-match in Paris.

“They’ll (Ireland) obviously be very tough, they’re playing really good rugby at the moment but I think we’ve just got to enjoy this, people can’t underestimate how tough it was play and to win a Test match in front of a massive crowd against a very good quality outfit,” he said.

“I think we’ll enjoy this and make the most of the win and then we’ll switch focus tomorrow.”

The bulk of the Wallabies squad flies to Dublin on Sunday, ahead of Saturday’s Ireland Test, while a group will travel to Bordeaux for Thursday’s midweek match against the French Barbarians.