Alan Cotter is pictured playing an 'A' game for Munster
LIMERICK prop Alan Cotter joined the Munster Rugby Academy at the start of the 2010/11 season and, after completing his second year, earned a development contract.
At the end of September 2012, the Young Munster clubman went on loan to London Irish for three games and in November played with Bath RFC against Harlequins.
Cotter made his British & Irish Cup debut for Munster A in 2011/12 and played more of a prominent role the following season, earning a development contract for the 2013/14 season.
Garryowen-born Cotter, who started playing rugby at Richmond, made his senior debut for Munster against Connacht in Thomond Park at the end of 2013 and played Heineken Cup against Toulouse in April 2014.
A torn bicep when playing for Munster A against Nottingham in November 2014 required surgery ruling him out for a number of months. Cotter left Munster at the end of the 2014/15 season to move to PRO D2 side Le Parc Pays D'Aix.
The Limerickman has since moved to French Federale 1 club Limoges. The Limerick Leader caught up with the 31-year-old this week.
What was your experience of playing with Provence Rugby in Pro D2 like?
ALAN COTTER: “I found it to be an amazing experience. Before I went to France in the summer of 2014, all I knew was Munster Rugby and the AIL, so it was fascinating to play in a different league with a totally different structure, for example offensive bonus points are received by outscoring your opponent by three tries.
“Also playing in big stadiums week in week out was incredible.”
Did it take you long to settle in to life in France with the language, the culture, the climate, the style of rugby?
AC: “The language is an ongoing thing, but I am getting by. By the middle of my second season in France I really started to understand what people were saying to me.
“To me there is a big culture difference, people tend to be way more relaxed over here like if you go out for a meal you could easily spend three hours talking.
“When we moved to Aix-En-Provence you immediately notice the climate difference. There is very little rain and with it being the South of France the heat was no joke, there were days during pre-season where it was 42 degrees.
How did living in Provence differ to life in Limerick?
AC: “Aix-En-Provence is a very beautiful city that always seemed to be busy, I think because of how amazing the weather was people were happy to be out and about.
“I found it very easy waking up to a warm sunny day! The people are very proud of their city like we are in Limerick but I still missed home from time to time.”
What were the biggest changes from playing with Munster and Young Munster to playing in France?
AC: “Props here in France are expected to run over each and every scrum. The major challenge for me was the home vs away game mentality.
“You are expected to win home games, but with away games a loss would be accepted. Even though at training you would prepare the same as a home game, but come game time the whole team could be changed.”
How and when did the chance to move to Limoges come about?
AC: “At the end of the 2015/2016 season Provence were not sure about their ProD2 status as a result of another team in the league's financial troubles. As a result, players were told if they were being re-contracted very late as Federale 1 teams have different allowances for foreign players. I needed more security than “we aren’t sure yet”, so once a good offer from Limoges was secured I took it.
You were moving from a Pro D2 club to a lower level Federale 1 club with the switch to Limgoes. Was that a tough call to make?
AC: “It was at the beginning as my wife and I had settled in nicely in Aix-En-Provence.
“However, it is becoming more difficult to secure contracts as there is a small quota for foreign players in each squad so securing a contract became top priority.
“After my initial season (2016/2017), I signed a two-year deal, so I am contracted until the end of the 2019 season.
How does living in Limoges differ from Provence?
AC: “Limoges is very different to Aix-En-Provence, but is quite like Limerick weather-wise.
“There is a lot less sun and a lot more rain with the countryside being way greener.
“Limoges is in the Limousin region of France so there is top quality beef here. Also the cost of living isn’t as high as it is in Aix so that’s an added bonus.”
Are there any other Irish players or English speakers at the club right now?
AC: “At the moment I’m the only Irish guy at the club but there are South Africans, Tongans and a player from New Zealand.
“The coaches and some of the French players speak English, so I’m not too lost most of the time. There was an Irish player at USAL but he retired the season before I signed.”
How does the standard of rugby in Federale 1 at Limoges differ from Pro D2?
AC: “We are in the Federale 1 Elite pool which is a group of 11 fully professional teams.
“At the end of the season two teams from the elite pool get promoted to ProD2. ProD2 is played at a slightly faster pace, however there are a lot of former Top14 players in Fed 1 at the moment so the standard is getting higher each year.”
Things went well for you last season at Limoges when the club offered you a new two-year deal?
AC: “Yes, last season went well for us as a team and for me. I’ve been getting a lot of game time and that was the one of the main reasons I came to France in the first place so I’m happy.”
Do you think more players should give moving abroad to play a chance?
AC: “Yes I would definitely recommend staying open to new opportunities and experiences. I’m not saying younger players should give up on their dreams for playing for their province or country but if you’re giving it your all and you aren’t getting where you want to be it’s not the end of the world as there are so many amazing opportunities abroad.”
Have you thought about the future beyond this season and next?
AC: “I've just turned 31 so I can see myself playing for at least another 4 years if the body holds up and I still have the appetite for it.
“I would definitely like to finish out my career in France.”