James Hart has held his head commendably high, and never complained, even though he has suffered many frustrations, since he turned his back on a rugby career in France to try his luck back home in Ireland.
The 26-year-old Dubliner, who has an Irish father and French mother, learned the game at Belvedere College and then moved on to Clontarf. He was showing enough promise to attract attention from France and it was an easy decision to move there, once Leinster didn’t demonstrate sufficient interest.
After spells with Grenoble and Racing 92, the scrum-half returned home, last summer, to join Munster, even though the world-class Conor Murray was fully established as the side’s number-one scrum-half.
“It’s really simple: I could have stayed in France, and I really enjoyed playing with Racing and there’s something special about the Top 14,” he said.
“My French family are from Toulouse and my uncles are mad rugby fans and I used to be brought to the stadium quite young. But I began to think, a few years previously, I had the chance to come home and I didn’t take it and then this one came around and if I didn’t take it, I might kick myself in a few years’ time.
“I decided to come home and give it a go. Obviously, my season, so far, has been quite mixed. There’s no point in saying that it’s been great or it’s been terrible. I’ve had to learn quite a bit. I live with Chris (Farrell) and I see how he has also come home from France and everything has gone to plan for him, whereas, for me, it hasn’t been as easy.
“But I’ve always been someone who worked hard. I’ve kept the head and kept waiting for the opportunities to come. The learning curve hasn’t been that easy, but the few games I’ve played have gone okay.”
Much of that learning has come from watching and listening to Murray.
“Obviously, he’s a fantastic player and the consistency of what he does is amazing. He does the basics so well and just doesn’t make too many mistakes.
“You watched, again, at the weekend and how well he manages the game. Himself and Sexton are now one of the best half-back partnerships in the world.”
Hart has upped his challenge to Duncan Williams, in the battle for the second scrum-half job with the province, and now he has a big chance to press his claims, with a good performance against Edinburgh, at Murrayfield, on Friday night.
But living and playing with Farrell has allowed Hart to see, at close quarters, how the best-laid plans can quickly unravel through injury, the towering centre now ruled out by a cruciate injury suffered on Ireland duty.
“It’s horrific. I know how much he has put into it and to get ‘man of the match’ and be going so well. I suppose it’s just sport and the cruelty of the game.
“One minute, you can have the biggest high imaginable and the next you’re going to be out for six to nine months and that’s just the game we play, unfortunately.”
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