Michael Le Bourgeois signs in at Wasps
Date: 1 Aug 2018
As black-and-gold autograph hunters will soon discover, newly-arrived centre Michael Le Bourgeois balances one of the longest names with the shortest signature in the current Wasps squad.
However, at 6ft 3 and a touch under 16 stone, when the action gets underway there will be no mistaking the man himself.
Le Bourgeois lit up the Championship in the blue of Bedford last season, and shortly after being named as player-of-the-year, his second reward arrived in the form of a shot at the top flight – and Heineken Champions Cup – with Wasps.
The Jersey-born centre first rose to prominence with his home town club, where he was an integral part of the Reds rapid climb through the league structure.
This was followed by a five-year spell in English rugby’s second tier with Bedford.
But despite relishing life as Mike Rayer’s captain at Goldington Road, Le Bourgeois admits the decision to trade one former Welsh international boss for another was reasonably straightforward.
"It was hard leaving Bedford,” he confirmed. “I'd progressed there, I was captain, I was in a really good place with the team and the town itself.
“The big challenge to consider was whether I would fit in up here, but at the same time I knew it was the opportunity of a life time. It's a top club in the Premiership which is exactly where every player wants to go.
"There’s been a handful of guys in recent years who’ve had the chance and done well. Obviously, I knew Guy Thompson from Jersey and when he came here, the way he progressed was fantastic.
"It's nice to see that progression actually happen and Josh Bassett who I knew at Bedford has had a similar experience, so you know if you work hard you could do the same."
Le Bourgeois is a very talented footballer, who has in the past been seen at fly half and full back on a fairly regular basis. However, he confirms that while he will happily play anywhere to help his team, his focus is now on the inside centre berth.
"My preferred position is No.12,” he says. “I do love to play fly half because you're always on the ball, but it's one of those positions you need to play constantly and I've never done that.
"I really enjoyed playing inside centre when I nailed the shirt down last year. It’s a position where you’re in the mix enough, and it’s an organising role too, so you're always doing stuff which is good."
The 27-year-old midfielder has found his first month at Wasps testing physically, but says this is exactly what he anticipated.
"At the end of the day, pre-season is always very similar wherever you go,” he says. “But while you still do your running and your tests, the intensity here has been a lot higher, so you have to be a lot more switched on. There's not much rest - everything is a lot quicker, you are firing here and there so there's no let off really.
"The first week was tough. The volume is what's different to the Championship teams I suppose, but as the weeks have progressed it's become more rugby-related and you can see that the boys are flying, which is very good.”
While Wasps opening pre-season tests against Connacht and Ulster remain a few weeks over the horizon, the competitive nature of professional sportsmen is never far from the surface.
It is therefore no surprise to learn that Le Bourgeois has already considered where opportunities may arise in David Young’s backline.
"It's well known here that the backs are exciting and the talent in the backline is phenomenal,” he acknowledges.
“So for me to be considered a part of it and to step in and play with those boys would be fantastic. It's part of the reason that made me want to sign and be involved with what we have here.
“There's obviously a lot of competition, and some very exciting backs. I played against Jimmy Gopperth when he was at Newcastle and he's just a quality player.
"It’s also been great to work with experienced Premiership players such as Rob Miller, Josh Bassett, Christian Wade, Gaby Lovobalavu and Juan De Jongh, and while the likes of Elliot Daly and Willie Le Roux are yet to come back, I know rubbing shoulders with those boys will be a test in itself."