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How a Kiwi helped an Aussie 'disconnect' from life in French rugby

By Finn Morton
Clermont's Miles Amatosero grabs the ball during the French Top14 rugby union match between Stade Rochelais (La Rochelle) and ASM Clermont Auvergne at The Marcel-Deflandre Stadium in La Rochelle, western France on April 22, 2023. (Photo by XAVIER LEOTY / AFP) (Photo by XAVIER LEOTY/AFP via Getty Images)

Moving to the other side of the world as a teenager can’t be easy, but that’s exactly what Australian Miles Amatosero did in 2020 after knocking back the chance to join the NSW Waratahs’ Academy.

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Amatosero, now 21, said au revoir to life in Australia after penning a deal with French Top 14 side ASM Clermont Auvergne. It was a brave move for someone so young to make, and one that presented its fair share of challenges.

With a new language to learn and culture to adopt, the young Australian had to navigate life in France without the guidance of loved ones who remained home in Sydney.

But learning to manage the challenges of life away from rugby in France meant first embracing the connections, friendships and comradery that the Clermont academy offered.

Amatosero found an ally and friend in New Zealander Edward Annandale. The pair became quite close as they found comfort in the familiarity they offered one another a long way from home.

“You really get close with one or two people,” Amatosero told RugbyPass.

“I went into the academy and the academy at the time didn’t have many foreigners in it, and the foreigners that they did have were like Fijian who didn’t speak English or maybe a Georgian that doesn’t speak English.

“I was lucky enough to have a Kiwi who’s the same age as me. He was seriously my good mate for a while… we’re in the same boat. We’d leave training and be like, ‘What are you doing?’ Hanging out and just trying to disconnect from it all.

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“Especially having something familiar, even though it’s not an Australian, having a Kiwi there, it’s close enough.

 

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“Early on, those few friendships I made with a couple of people were really big because if you’re not lucky and you go to an academy that has zero foreigners – because it’s not like you just want to disconnect from work, you want to disconnect from France and French.

“It can become a lot if you’re speaking French all day, trying to… you want to sort of disconnect from it, same with work.

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“My relationships with a few key mates were really important,”  Amatosero added. “When I moved into the professional environment there were a lot more foreigners, a lot more people speaking English.

“Honestly, if I was in the academy for the entire three years I don’t think I would’ve made it.”

Annandale, 23, left Clermont and returned home to New Zealand last year. The hulking second-rower played a handful of games for Auckland – including the NPC quarter-final defeat to Canterbury – and has joined the Blues’ wider squad for 2024.

It’s a promising move for the young Kiwi, who left the French club before his Australian teammate had the chance to return home, too.

Amatosero is back in Australia now. The lock was a big-name signing – both in stature and reputation – for the Waratahs ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season.

The Tahs recruit is the tallest player in the squad by a decent margin. Amatosero is impossible to miss walking around the teams’ training facilities in Sydney – he’s just that tall.

But his decision to return after three years away was one that clearly meant a lot to him. Amatosero couldn’t stop smiling as he spoke about the opportunity to come back Down Under.

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Amatosero is one of the most exciting young prospects in Australian rugby at the moment, and he’s already signalled an intent and desire to one day don Wallaby gold.

“I’m trying to not make it so much of a dream, I’m trying to make it a reality,” Amatosero said.

“I’m staying confident in what I’m doing… just getting better every day. If that means Wallabies that means Wallabies, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

“Of course, that’s the dream, that’s the end goal that I want to play for the Wallabies.

“A huge (goal) for me is being the best player that I can be and hopefully that means the best lock in the world.”

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