RIL recently had the chance to chat with former Northampton Saints and Clermont lock, Karl Wilkins about adjusting to life abroad. Having initially made the move to France in 2014, Karl now plays with Pro D2 side, Beziers in Southern France.
Rugby Inside Line – Firstly, please could you tell me a little about your playing career both in the UK and abroad?
Karl Wilkins – I was in the Northampton Saints set-up up until 18 years old. I then spent 2 years in Clermont in their academy system. And I am currently in my 4th season with Beziers.
RIL – What challenges (if any) did you face wen you first began playing overseas?
Karl Wilkins – The main challenge was the language of course, it was also my first time living away from home, so the first 3-6 months was particularly tough.
RIL – Do you find that players often prefer to stay in their home country rather than play overseas?
Karl Wilkins – I think most players would be open to trying a new challenge away from home, however it’s becoming harder due to the home-grown player rules.
RIL – What do you think the biggest difference is between the rugby played in the UK compared to abroad?
Karl Wilkins – It’s hard for me to compare having only experienced France. But it can be very passionate and high pressure here.
RIL – Why do you think some players excel when going overseas when they were not as successful when playing in the UK?
Karl Wilkins – Sometimes all a player needs is a change, the smallest thing behind the scenes could affect their performances. A change of scenery (not necessarily overseas), culture, coach, training, could make all the difference.
RIL – What motivation does playing abroad give players that playing in their native league does not?
Karl Wilkins – To prove that you can be successful in another league, against different players/teams in different stadiums.
RIL – In what ways can players further develop through playing abroad that they may not be able to by remaining in the UK?
Karl Wilkins – Each new experience is something to learn from, playing & training in a different league gives you the chance to improve your overall game.
RIL – Was it difficult for your family members to adjust to life in a foreign country?
Karl Wilkins – Yes. My girlfriend has just joined me in France. She’s currently learning the language and adjusting to life here. But of course, it will get easier with time the more she learns.