Munster’s new signing Antoine Frisch says it is his ‘dream’ to play for Ireland and that he is being inspired by some of the country’s greats.
The centre was born and raised in France but qualifies for Andy Farrell’s men thanks to his Irish mother.
Frisch came through the Stade Francais academy but has primarily played his rugby in the lower reaches of the French system.
Having featured for Tarbes and Massy, it was at Rouen where he thrived and was noticed by Bristol Bears.
Pat Lam duly took a chance on him and the back impressed whenever he took to the field, despite not being a first team regular.
Connection with Ireland greats
“As a kid I was divided watching rugby, all my mates were supporting France, and then my Dad was obviously supporting them too,” he told the Irish Times.
“But then I was always massively proud to be Irish. I would watch Ireland and I remember I would really get emotional watching the games.
“I immediately felt this strong connection. I think back to the players I loved as a kid, and they were people like O’Gara, Stringer, O’Driscoll, O’Callaghan and O’Connell. They really inspired me to want to play this game.”
Culturally Frisch always felt different to his friends and colleagues growing up in France, with his family link to Ireland proving a huge draw.
“Growing up, I never quite felt I was like the other French kids. I think it was really due to my mum bringing me up surrounded by Irish culture,” he said.
“It made even more sense when I went over to Ireland and started meeting all the family, it all just made sense.
“The reasons why I didn’t feel the same in France or I was maybe just a little different.
“The main difference I have always found between France and Ireland would be the banter, it was just hard for me to understand the French humour growing up, although it became clearer as I got older.
“In Ireland I always got the humour a lot more. It just felt more natural.
“When I go back to Tallaght, there’s just this strong feeling in my heart, I can’t explain it. When I see my cousins, it’s always incredible.
“The next three years at Munster will be massive, both from a rugby perspective, and also to really build that connection with my family.”
A Munster player with a Leinster connection
Signing for Munster may not been the wisest decision for some, with his extended family very much of a Leinster persuasion, but they have put allegiances aside to support Frisch.
“They’re all Leinster fans, but they will be definitely be coming down to the games in Limerick. They were watching my games in Rouen and then Bristol, and they’ve always supported me,” he said.
“When they heard I was signing they were already ringing to see how they could help in any way, they’re very proud that I’ve joined a club like Munster.”
Frisch also praised the Bears, who understood the 26-year-old’s desire to move to Ireland.
He added: “They wanted me to stay, but equally, Pat knew where I came from, and what my dreams were to come to Ireland. He fully understood my decision, and he was really happy for me.
“I am massively grateful to Pat and Conor McPhillips who believed in me when the Top 14 clubs didn’t give me a shot, they helped make all of this possible, and I can’t say enough good things about them.
“The time they put me in with me, to make me a better player and person was incredible, but I know I’m making the choice for the right reasons.
“They gave me the opportunity, but I felt I didn’t really have a choice when Munster came in. It was a straightforward decision.
“I could have played for England as I’m also eligible to play internationally for them, but it was never in my mind. I don’t know why, it was never a thing. It had to be Ireland.”