Name: Jamie Noon
Position: Winger, Full Back
Clubs: Newcastle, Brive
National: England (38 Caps)
E4R’s English ambassador, Jamie Noon, share his thoughts on life and rugby in France and England.
You’re still living in France after your retirement from playing, what are you up to these days?
I’m doing a bit of TV stuff as and when I can and I’m also a rugby agent. I am enjoying looking after the next generation of rugby players and trying to do it my own way, based on my experience as a player. I am lucky to be able to offer them the information I have picked up over 15 years in professional rugby.
Every agent has a different approach to managing players. You had a very long, successful career as a player, so do you give them much playing advice as well or do you stick to the agent side of things?
I try not to be too critical or too harsh. Each player is an individual; some guys really want that input and advice whilst others don’t but I try to help with as many aspects of their career as I can, be it nutrition, training principles, or just sitting with a player and looking through his game and picking out some tactical and technical points.
I try to do as much as I can. Taking on an almost mentor role is something that will set me apart from other agents and I really enjoy it. I’m imparting all my experience to the guys we work with so they can become the best they can be and that is the ultimate goal.
What first attracted you to play and live in France?
Well, I came over with rugby back in 2009 with a lot of other English guys and I really enjoyed playing over here and also really enjoyed the time off the field.
I’ve got three children and they’re bilingual. French is probably their main language at the moment and they are fully adapted to life here. Once they were all settled, the family really enjoyed living over here so we decided to stay.
It would’ve been the same if I’d moved from Newcastle to London or anywhere really-if my family were happy in that place then we would have stayed there.
How did you find the initial period of adjusting to playing in France?
Well to start with it was quite difficult just because of that combination of changing club, changing country and obviously the language is really difficult to get to grips with to start with and that’s the main obstacle.
As soon as you start getting a hang of French then it’s fine. The rugby was a bit different as well, the training, the demands; it’s a different way of training, coaching and it takes a bit of time to get used to it.
I’d been at Newcastle for 11 years and only really knew that way of doing things.
Are you still involved with Brive at all?
I’m not involved at all really. I was thinking about doing some coaching with them, with some of the youngsters maybe, but because of the agency stuff I’m not actually allowed to be involved with other clubs. It would be frowned upon.
E4R focuses on the grassroots game so I’d be interested in your insight on how the general standards and infrastructure of the grassroots rugby is in France and how does it compare to the UK?
Both my sons play at a local rugby club. They’re in a low division and they’re doing their best working up but it’s real grassroots stuff.
What I’ve found so far is that they go to tournaments here, there and everywhere; there are hundreds of little clubs all over the place and Brive itself is a massive rugby town and there’s a lot of young rugby lads flying around.
Some of the quality is unbelievable at such a young age; they love and live for rugby but the number of those guys that then go on to be professional or to make it is so small so I think there’s probably some disconnect there.
The transition between converting those good quality players with real potential into professional players is one area that I would say needs working on. In terms of the numbers and in terms of the participation levels, it’s huge. It’s just that conversion rate.
Are there any decent links between Brive rugby club and the many grassroots clubs in that area?
To be honest, because of the history of Brive, a lot of the young guys start off in an amateur clubs with a view that they really want to go and play for the under 16s at Brive when and if they can. They’ll jump at the chance to go and be involved with Brive but I think that’s not necessarily because of the work Brive are doing. I think it’s more because of the prestige of the club and the chance of a professional contract.
When you moved to Brive you were still very prominent over here in England. Did it make it hard with regards to your England ambitions, the fact that you stepped away?
Yeah, I kind of knew that I was taking a bit of a risk but I had an idea of which way the wind was blowing as I didn’t get a massive look-in with England in the last year I was over there.
I knew that maybe my international career was kind of dwindling away anyway so I made a choice to go to France, not only for work reasons, but for family reasons. I saw an opportunity to get more life experience.
There aren’t many jobs that enable you to just decide to go and play and work in France with such ease so I thought I had to take that opportunity.
I signed for Brive with Ricky Flutey and Steve Thompson who were also involved with England so I kind of felt like there was safety in numbers! Those guys were heavily involved with England at the time.
You played with Mike Blair at Brive. Was he as big a trainer at Brive as he was at Edinburgh?
Yes, especially in the gym! He loved it!
He was actually quite good (faint praise-Ed.), he’s a top fella.
He's got a really good rugby brain and knows how the game should be played. He is a competitor on the field and at times he’s not a big fan of some of the training principles but we got him in the gym and he did his best in there!
Are you still doing any training yourself?
No, unfortunately I’m not; I just don’t have any time. I’m looking into getting some kind of home gym so I can try and do something but it’s been a while.
We’ve had decent responses so far from our other ambassadors to the question “What are you benching these days?”
Yeah. To be honest, what’s difficult is, obviously, throughout the years, bench press becomes a big kind of test to see how strong you are among rugby players, but in rugby you don’t actually do much bench pressing!
Find more Big Interviews here