One of our new recruits this season is French rugby player Hugo Gens who has made a big contribution as Galwegians fight for the AIL Division 2C title.
Hugo is studying in Ireland for the year and talked about his career in rugby to date, university life in Galway and his time in Galwegians as a whole.
Residing in the south of France, Hugo took up the sport at the tender age of six years old for Pezenas. At fourteen he joined Montpellier Hérault Rugby at underage level. Montpellier currently play in the French Top 14, the most elite division in the country.
Hugo was inspired by the Montpellier teams of the early 2010s as he was growing up and says that “it gives you great motivation to see your team playing in the Top 14”.
“When I was young, I always supported Montpellier and it was a big season in 2011 when they went to the final against Toulouse. We lost to Toulouse but it was a great season and it really inspired me with all the young French players in the squad”.
Hugo had to deal with adversity in the early days in the Montpellier academy where he was sidelined for a year and was not playing the sport for a long period of time. But Hugo used his return as fuel for motivation.
“After this, I began to enjoy rugby more and more. It was great for me to be part of a team and to share great memories. That’s why it was great to come to Wegians, to be part of a team with great young players”.
Playing for over seven years, he got his big break playing for Montpellier, playing in 2021 for the senior squad with three games in the Top 14 and two friendlies. It was a very proud moment in his career to accomplish his dream to play for his boyhood club.
Afterwards, he moved to a small club called Millau before making the next step in his career by joining Galwegians for this season after talking to former Ireland international Justin Fitzpatrick about the history of the club. Hugo mentioned this moment as a big reason to join the club.
“To come here to Ireland, it was a very new experience for me to be integrated into a team like this. I’m really proud of this to come into the team, a totally new experience for a young player like me. I’m very grateful to play for this club”.
“Rugby was a main factor, I have some friends who told me about Ireland and Galway, saying it was a nice city. Also to speak English for the year for my journalism course was very important to me”.
Hugo says he’s enjoying the university lifestyle in Galway, commenting on the friendliness and openness of the Irish people. He’s grateful to enjoy experiencing a new culture and a new city while having to the chance to play rugby at a competitive level. He has realised that the weather is slightly different to the south of France!
Hugo has also noticed the style of rugby can be different in Ireland and he had to adapt somewhat to perfect his game.
“There are some similarities but some big differences. The maul doesn’t play well in France compared to here, and the technical plays like the rucks and turnovers are played very well. Sometimes in France, it is a little bit more rough with the physicality.”
Hugo found himself very welcome in the Galwegians dressing room and has enjoyed the bonding experiences with his club.
“It’s a little bit different to France. It’s really great that we stay together after a game with the clubhouse and have some banter together. That’s a great culture for new players. It’s also great to have the president and former presidents all together at the games because you don’t really see this in France. To have this close proximity in Ireland is great”.
While he is enjoying his time in Galwegians, he is also focused ahead of the final stretch of the AIL season to ensure that the Blues remain favourites for the title.
“We know that the two big matches are these next two away games in a row against Clogher Valley and Enniscorthy. The Clogher Valley game was very hard when we lost at home so we know we need to win these next two games. We are in great shape for them, but we know it is one of the big moments of the season, if not the biggest moment.”
Hugo will never forget the time had in Galway and would recommend students playing rugby like himself to travel aboard and have a taste of the experiences he has had “for inside and outside of rugby”.