Interview of Dane Haylett-Petty, Biarritz Olympique fullback

Dane with Biarritz

– Did you know a lot of the Biarritz team and the TOP 14 before being contacted by Jack Isaac last year? Are you enjoying your time in the Basque Country?

I didn’t know too much about the Biarritz team or competiton before I came. I had watched some top 14 games shown back in Australia, and chatted to a few people who knew a bit about the French top14, including Jack, before I signed. I heard it was a great place to live, and play but I think its exceeding all my expectations. Ive really enjoyed my first season in the basque country. It’s a beautiful place!

– What are the key tactical differences between Super Rugby and Top 14? Do French clubs prepare for their games in a different way than the Australian ones?

I think that super rugby is a quicker competition, with more emphasis on attacking, putting defences under pressure while the European competitons focus more on the set piece, tactical kicking and defence. I do think the French prepare slightly differently. They are more passionate and emotional, especially for home games, whereas back home its more about staying calm and focusing on performing your role.

Justin Turner

– You were the first Western Australian player to be offered a contract by the Western Force. Richard Graham mentioned in our last interview that he feels very confident about seeing more Perth based players in Super Rugby. Do you share his opinion? Do you believe that in the near future the Western Force will be less dependent on NSW and QLD based players?

Over the short time the Force has been around, the standard of rugby in Western Australia has improved dramaticly, and it’s only going to keep getting better. We’ve already seen some good local players come through like Kieran Longbottom and Justin Turner for the Western Force, and even Australian 7s representatives like Zack Holmes. There’s plenty more talent coming through, who now have a great pathway to professional rugby through the force. Without a doubt, in time, they’ll be producing Wallabies of their own and be less dependant on getting players over from the eastern coast.

Dane with Gordon against Randwick

– You’ve played for Gordon at the end of the Super Rugby season. Do you believe that the Shute Shield is competitive enough to prepare players for Super Rugby or should the ARU re-introduce an intermediate competition such as the Currie Cup in SA or the ITM Cup in NZ?

The Shute Shield is a good competition after the Super15 ends and all the players are back playing but I think the jump in standard of rugby from the shute shield to super 15 is too great. I think most players in Australia would prefer a professional competition like the currie cup instead, so they can play quality rugby all year round.

– Unfortunately, rugby Sevens is under-rated in France. As a Sevens representative, what are the skills that you’ve acquired during this time? Are they useful for the Top 14 or the H cup, where strategies seem to be mainly focused on defence?

I think that playing sevens for one season was good for my rugby, especially as an outside back, attacking with space, and making one on one tackles in space like fullbacks are forced to do. Recently in Australia, sevens has been taken more seriously, and im sure the same will happen in france, with its inclusion in the Olympics.

– Chris Jack and Peter De Villiers have said in the past that Southern Hemisphere players were losing their talent when they come to Europe. Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe that you will go back to Australia as a better player?

It depends what reasons they come to Europe for. If they are just here to make money, they might not play to their potential, but there are plenty of players that have come across and excelled. I personally think ive improved a lot from playing quality rugby week in week out, all year round, which I couldn’t get in Australia. Especially for a young player, you learn so much from just playing, making mistakes and improving, rather then training all the time.

Richard Graham, head coach of the Western Force

– Have you been following the Western Force’s performances in Super 15? Do you notice a change in style from John Mitchell’s strategy vs. Richard Graham’s?

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to watch too many of their games, but Ive followed their progress. From the sounds of things they’ve been playing well despite some of their results. While I cant really comment on the different styles, ive worked with both coaches and they are fairly similar, with a big emphasis on defence. Not that different from European teams. Maybe because they’ve both had stints in the UK.

– What are your plans for the future? Have you ever considered moving back to SA to play Super Rugby and club rugby?

For now im really enjoying myself in Biarritz, and im keen to stay and play rugby here for the next years. After that id love to return back to Australia and have another crack at playing super15. I wouldn’t mind spending some time playing in South Africa for a season or two of currie cup or super15. Especially if I could live in a beautiful place like Cape town or Durban.