Growing up, Romain Ntamack and his younger brother Theo were well known to the doctors and nurses at Toulouse’s hospital.
On Sundays, usually between 7 and 11 in the evening, one of the siblings would often be carted in for treatment after over-zealous tackling in the garden.
‘Oh, Mr Ntamack, which one is it this week?’ the staff would ask his father, Emile, who scored 26 tries in 46 Tests for France and doubled up as the family ambulance driver.
France 10 Romain Ntamack (above) has opened up in an exclusive interview with Sportsmail
‘We always had rugby DNA in our blood,’ says Romain. ‘If the weather was bad, we would play in the house and end up breaking glasses or vases. If the weather was good, we would play in the garden.
‘I remember tackling my brother into a tree to stop him from scoring a try. He cut his head open and needed to go to hospital for stitches above his eye.
‘Sometimes Dad’s team-mates would come around for dinner and their kids would play with us too. Trevor Brennan’s family were around a lot. They were keen rugby players who would join in.
‘Dad would be the referee. We were competitive even as young boys but our dad’s big thing was that we always had to respect the referee. It was a wonderful education for us.’
Growing up, Ntamack rubbed shoulders with the great and the good of world rugby.
The talented outside-half is the son of the former France international Emile Ntamack (right)
At six months old, he was carried around Twickenham on his father’s hip after the World Cup semi-final. As he got older, he was invited along as ball boy and would get to meet his idols after games. He would say to his father: ‘One day, I am going to be on that bus with the team.’
He adds: ‘There are so many fond memories. I was always aware of what my dad did in rugby. He was often away coaching with France during the Six Nations, so I would spend Sunday afternoons in front of the TV with my grandad.
‘We would sit down 20 minutes before kick-off because I loved listening to the national anthems. There would be a big family lunch sitting around the table and my grandma would make crepes during the game. It was magical.
‘When I was 12 years old and Dad was coaching with France at the 2011 World Cup, I went out to New Zealand for 10 days. After the final against the All Blacks, he took me on to the pitch and introduced me to some of the players.
Emile represented France at the 1999 World Cup, a tournament in which they were runners-up
‘I remember Jerome Kaino tapping me on the head. It’s funny because we ended up being team-mates at Toulouse for three years.
‘When I was young, I would always watch videos of my dad. As you get older, you look at other big players for inspiration. Guys like Dan Carter, Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton, Dan Biggar, Richie Mo’unga. Playing against guys like that has been a big part of my development as a player.’
Then Ntamack stepped out of his father’s shadow and began to write his own chapter in French rugby.
Aged 22, he has become one of the poster boys for France’s rugby revolution. While his father was a fast, physical track and field athlete turned rugby player, Romain is an elusive playmaker whose vision is helping make France great again.
Romain also discussed his strong relationship with half-back partner Antoine Dupont (left)
‘With France, I don’t know whether the word is ‘special’ but it’s certainly different to what we had four or five years ago. It’s a young squad who are a little more carefree. Many of us have played together for a long time, coming through the junior team that won the Under-20 World Cup together.
‘We enjoy the way we’re playing at the moment. We want to win and if the fans enjoy it then all the better but by the same token we’re aware that we still have a lot of work to do. We look at teams like England, New Zealand, South Africa so we can learn from them and get to their level.’
Having beaten the All Blacks in style during the autumn, with an attack compared with France’s famous ‘try from the end of the earth’ in 1994, Ntamack’s team will go into this year’s Six Nations as favourites.
They have discovered a defensive grit under Shaun Edwards, while Ntamack’s half-back partnership with Antoine Dupont appears to be unstoppable.
‘Myself and Antoine have played together for a long time now with France and Toulouse. Our relationship gets better each day. What tends to happen is that if he has a good game then I have a good game and vice versa. And if we both have a good game then we tend to win.
The 22-year-old also hailed the work of France defence coach and Wigan icon Shaun Edwards
‘As for Shaun, you just have to look at everything he’s won with Wales and the Lions. He’s been passing on all of the knowledge he’s built up and it’s hugely valuable. He’s very British in his attitude.
‘He’s taught us to be more solid, secure, more organised in defence. He doesn’t want us to give anything to the opposition. He has put us in a good place.’
France are growing in stature. The rugby world is starting to take them seriously and when the World Cup arrives in Paris next year they should be serious contenders. A World Cup trophy on home soil? That is something his father could only dream of.
‘It’s going to be great to play in front of our friends, our fans and our families. Lots of areas to improve, lots of games to be played. We have a long way to go before we can even be pretenders for the World Cup crown. We won’t make any secret that we want to win it — just like every team — but we’ve still got a long way to go.’
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