For France's Flament playing at Twickenham is a homecoming
Thibaud Flament's rugby journey has taken an unusual route but on Saturday it arrives at a dreamed of destination when the lock forward steps out at Twickenham to start for France.
"England is also where I started as a professional," the France lock forward told AFP.
"It is thanks to the English system that I was able to reach the top level. I owe a lot to English rugby education," he told AFP as he anticipated playing at Twickenham.
"I dreamed of being able to walk on the pitch," said Flament.
France coach Fabien Galthie calls Flament his "UFO" after he arrived at top-level rugby from an unexpected direction.
Flament was born in Paris but grew up in Singapore and Brussels, where he played for the Waterloo club.
He chose to study in England.
"I wanted to study and play at the same time. England seemed like the best option and that's how I joined Loughborough University," he said.
Loughborough specialises in sport and Flament struggled to make the team.
"There were trials to get on the team," he said. "I had no idea. I thought, 'I made this choice, if I don't even get in...'."
He joined the university fifth team as halfback. At 2.03m talls he was destined for the pack and after switching to the second row before working his way up to the first team, which plays in both the British Universities Championship and the third tier of English rugby union's league system.
He played a season in Argentina for Newman and then returned to England to sign professionally for Wasps.
"I didn't have a connection with French clubs, whereas Wasps opened their doors to me. It was an opportunity that presented itself," Flament said.
His play drew the attention of Top14 titans Toulouse and he returned to France in 2020.
On Saturday he will be in London where "good friends" and "very good memories" will be waiting.
"To return to the country where I worked my way through the ranks, it's special", added Flament.
Flament made his international debut for France in the 2021 autumn internationals as France began an unbeaten run that only ended when they lost to Ireland on February 11 now he plays at Twickenham where France has not won a Six Nations match since 2005.
"It's a stadium I visited at university. I opened my eyes wide. I dreamed of being able to walk on the pitch," said Flament.
"We're very excited: it's 'Le Crunch'! We are all looking forward to this game, especially at Twickenham, a mythical stadium", he said.