Young Ollivon making a big impression

Date published: August 20 2014

Starting the season at home to Toulon was never going to be easy for Bayonne, and so it proved as they were soundly beaten 29-15.

Starting the season at home to Toulon was never going to be easy for Bayonne, and so it proved as they were soundly beaten 29-15.

While their pack was beaten up, particularly in the scrum, and their backs struggled to make ground, there was one major reason for optimism in the imposing shape of young number eight Charles Ollivon.

The 21-year-old featured nine times for l'Aviron last season, having made his debut off the bench the previous year, but this looks like being a breakthrough campaign.

Showing incredible dexterity with ball in hand, as well quick feet and a surprising turn of pace, Ollivon was able to make ground virtually every time he was given the ball.

A reduced budget means that Bayonne will be putting more faith in their youngsters this season, with Ollivon set to benefit, but as he explained, it's not been the easiest path to professional rugby.

“It's true that apart from a Basque selection, I've never been called up to any representative teams,” he told Rugbyrama.

“I wasn't in the age group set-ups at 16 when players starting doing gym work. Nor was I in the Bayonne academy, so I wasn't in the club set-up. So I would just train with my age group team, nothing more.”

“I started doing gym work when I joined the academy three years ago. I need to build up my upper body, but it's not essential. On the pitch there are players who are a lot bigger than me, and with a sidestep, or some pace, that difference disappears.

“It's an area which I am going to keep working on, but I don't intend to bulk up and add too many kilos either because you have to be able to run.”

Given his obvious potential, it seems surprising that Ollivon has never featured for France at age-group level, and his former youth coach, and now the backs coach at Bayonne, Nicolas Morlaes explains he was already a stand-out as a youngster.

“He was in a different league when he was with the Espoirs, and each time the opposition coaches would ask who he was,” he said.

“But none of the selectors would come watch those games. We called [Fabien] Pelous and [Didier] Retière, the U20s coaches. They called him up for a training camp with 70 other players and we never heard anything more.”

While he was regularly overlooked at age group level, his performance on Friday has already got people talking about a possible international call-up, with France forwards coach Yannick Bru in the stands for the Toulon game.

And although that may be a little premature, Ollivon admits it's in the back of his mind.

“I'm not going to say it's not something I think about, because that wouldn't be true,” he added.

“It's nice that people are talking about me, but it doesn't really change anything in my everyday life. I'm not going to worry too much about it, it's not in my nature.

“I've started everything a little later than everyone else, but so far it's always worked out well for me.”