Will Percillier had been getting positive messages from his coach all week.
In the lead-up to Percillier’s debut in the Top 14 — France’s premier professional rugby circuit — coach Gonzalo Quesada had reassured the Mill Bay product that he was indeed ready for action. Quesada reinforced that again just before Stade Français’s match at home against Toulouse on Sunday.
“He told me not to worry,” Percillier recalled. “He said, ‘You’ve been doing your job in practice, so don’t go crazy in your head and psych yourself out before the game. You’re not going to make any mistakes.’ He really helped me out.”
The 21-year-old scrum-half not only held his own when he entered the match as a sub late in the second half, but also scored his first professional try in a 48-14 victory.
It wasn’t Percillier’s first appearance for Stade Français, as the Brentwood College School alum and former Cowichan Piggie played for the Paris-based club in the European Challenge Cup last season, but this was his first time taking the field in the domestic league.
“I had kind of had a taste of it already, but I was pretty nervous before,” he admitted.
As it goes for any spare in rugby, Percillier didn’t know until he was tapped to enter the match that he would get to play on Sunday.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent sure,” he said. “There have been times when I’ve been on the bench and rode it out until the end of the game.”
Stade Français ended up building a lead on four first-half tries, and made it stand up, setting up what Percillier called a “low-risk” situation for him to be inserted. He wasn’t on the field long before the ball ended up in his hands in the 72nd minute. Les Stadistes engineered a turnover out of a defensive scrum and took possession. Australian winger Sefa Naivalu chipped the ball over the Toulouse line and recovered it himself before feeding it to Percillier — the first time he touched the ball — with a clear path to the goal line, which he dove over gracefully.
“He was nice enough to give me the ball right before the line,” Percillier said humbly. “I didn’t have too much to do with it.”
To hear Percillier recount the try, it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“I knew [Naivalu] was going to do something special, so I decided to follow him and see if he needed help with anything,” he said. “I was surprised to be passed the ball. He had already done all the work.”
Percillier was immediately mobbed by his teammates.
“Everyone is always really happy when the youngsters get a try,” he said. “They all came and congratulated me. I got a hug from the guys following the action. After the game both coaches congratulated me.”
The win over formerly first-place Toulouse moved Stade Français into sixth in the Top 14 — they finished 10th last season — and they will try to carry that momentum into this Saturday’s match against ninth-ranked Montpellier.
“It’s about fixing some of the mistakes from that game and building on every game. We want to be near the top of the table at the end of the championship.”