Daniel Brennan: Far from lost in translation

Daniel Brennan, all 6ft3in and 20 stone of him, sits in a small chair in the courtyard of the vineyard where the French U20 team are staying outside Narbonne, and tries to rattle off his phone number before realising he can’t do it in English.

“Trois, trois, sept, huit ….,” he then goes, with the softness and cultured tone of a French accent which suggests he has never been out of the Haut-Garonne in his life. 

Seconds later, after finishing calling out his number, he bursts out laughing and reverts to the strong Dublin accent in which he has delivered a few post-match interviews during the World Rugby U20 Championship in France over the past couple of weeks.

“Jaysus, that’s gas, I never realised that before. I only know my number in French.”

He has lived in France since he was three and a half, travelling over with mum Paul and younger brother Josh after dad Trevor signed for Toulouse in 2002. The third member of the family Bobby, now 11, was born in Toulouse.

He spent the first few years of his life in Ireland but on Sunday, when he will bid to become the first Irishman to win a World Rugby U20 Championship medal, he will do so in the blue, white and red of France.

But even that could have been so different as he was approached by Munster coach Rassie Erasmus a year ago about moving back to Ireland.

“I had a chat with Rassie Erasmus last year. I just said it’s not my time to leave France yet. I had the U20s this year. I played with them in Georgia last summer and I wanted to be here when France hosted it. 

"There was a little chat at the start of the year with Johann van Graan. But then I signed with Montpellier in January.”

Dad Trevor, having played for Leinster and won 13 Irish caps, was signed by Toulouse in 2002, helping them win the Heineken Cup twice.

His career, in its final stages when he was 33, came to an end when he was banned in 2007 for attacking an Ulster fan during a match.

That was the same year that son Daniel started playing rugby. The family settled in the village of Castelginest, north of Toulouse, and Daniel began playing with a neighbouring team Aucamville.

“I didn’t go to an English school. They stuck me in the French school and I didn’t know what they were talking about at the start. I ended up learning the French language. 

"It’s much easier when you are a kid to pick up a language. It was more difficult for my parents. They speak fluent French now but they have these accents. 

"When I speak French you wouldn’t know I was born in Ireland. It just came quite naturally. But people slag me for my Dublin accent, not least because the whole family, my mum and dad, are all from Leixlip!”

Brennan holds an Irish passport, regularly comes home, and a year ago gave serious consideration to making a permanent move back when Munster came calling.

“I think I can still play for Ireland. I have always played rugby in France. I am born in Ireland. I am obviously really proud to be Irish. I love my Irish origins. I love where I come from. I love going home meeting everybody. But I also love being French.

“French rugby has been so good to me. They have always been good to me. Toulouse has been good to me. For school everyone has been good to me. 

"It’s a way to give back, sticking on the French jersey, all the opportunities they have given me,” he added.

Daniel Brennan

Brennan’s introduction to rugby came “messing about” with the children of the likes of Jean-Baptiste Élissalde and Yannick Bru when they would accompany their dads to training at Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse.

Brennan, who also played soccer, ice hockey, and judo, made a regional rugby team where he was just about the only one not on the books of Stade Toulasain or Colomiers (the Pro D2 club in the city) but by the time he was 13 Toulouse came looking for a second-generation Brennan. 

Daniel made it into what is essentially a national academy, travelling each week to Paris.

“They take all of the best guys from these schools and bring them to Paris. That was for a year. 

"That was a tough year because you left at 4am on the Monday on the plane, you flew to Paris, you train all week, you flew on the Friday at around 3pm and played on the weekend. I was 16.”

Dad Trevor, who has sold his renowned pub De Danù in the city and who has opened Brennan’s Bar in Castelginest, has never interfered or being pushy.

“He would leave me to myself. But now I find when I’m doing well that’s when he is annoying! ‘Dan stop eating shite, Dan get up and go for a run.’ 

"He just wants me to do well, he’s come to all the matches and he’s delighted things are going well.”

Like father, like son: sporting dynasties

John and David Meyler

John was an All-Ireland hurling medal winner with Cork and is now the county’s manager.

David is an established Ireland soccer international who now plays with Reading.

John Egan Sr and Jr

The late John Egan Sr was a star of Mick O’Dwyer’s legendary Kerry football team.

Egan Jr is an Ireland soccer international playing at Brentford.

Dermot Earley Sr and Jr

Earley Sr was a two-time All Star who won five Connacht SFC titles with Roscommon.

Dermot Jr was also a two-time All-Star footballer and Leinster title winner with Kildare.

Graham and Damon Hill

Graham Hill was F1 world champion in 1962 and 1968, winning 14 grands prix in a glittering career.

Son Damon’s 1996 title makes them the only father and son to win the F1 championship.

Andy and Owen Farrell

At 21 Andy Farrell was the youngest ever England and Great Britain rugby league captain before switching to union in 2005, making eight appearances for the Red Rose.

Now Ireland defence coach. Owen Farrell is a decorated England union international and winner of two European Champions Cups and two Six Nations.

Johan and Jordi Cruyff

Ajax and Barcelona legend Johan was the star of the great Dutch side of the 1970s.

Managed Barca to their first European Cup.

Jordi, named after Catalonia’s patrol saint, played under his dad at Barcelona and later won a Premier League title with Manchester United in 1997.



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