‘I’m an Irish citizen now… I felt I had been accepted a long time ago’

IT’S COMING UP on seven years since he first arrived on these shores and Quinn Roux has never felt more Irish.

The Connacht lock is now an Irish citizen and, since very recently, the proud holder of a passport bearing a harp and the word Éire.

Roux, a native of South Africa, felt he was accepted by Irish people from his early days here but having the passport makes things a lot easier for him.

Roux is set for Ireland cap number 11 this weekend in Rome. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s life-changing,” says the 28-year-old, who used his new passport to travel to Scotland with Ireland for their Six Nations game two weekends ago. “It makes a big difference for me and, hopefully, for my kids one day.

“I came over here to play rugby and the opportunity that I have been given is really special and I am hoping to build on that in the next few years.

“I felt that I had been accepted a long time ago but this means… it really just makes travel an awful lot easier because you can’t travel that much on a South African passport.

“It doesn’t feel like I’ve been accepted now just because I’ve got the passport. I felt I had been accepted years ago – here and in the Connacht environment and even when I was at Leinster where I was well looked after as well. I guess I’m a citizen now.”

The citizenship ceremony took place in Killarney in front of a couple of dignitaries, with Roux seeing it as the latest step in the journey since moving to Ireland in 2012.

“It’s just another thing that I’ve been given here of which I’m really proud.”

He and his wife, Rentus, are happily settled in the house they bought last year in Knocknacarra, just outside Salthill, and the second row is delighting in playing under head coach Andy Friend with Connacht.

Having initially broken through as a professional with Western Province and the Stormers – where Springboks Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker blocked further progress – Roux signed for Leinster on a one-year deal when Joe Schmidt was still in charge of the province.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There were only 13 appearances in that first year in Ireland, as well as a steep learning curve about life away from home, but Leinster extended Roux’s deal.

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“It’s funny, I was still so young and so inexperienced,” he recalls. “I was 21 and I had never been overseas and I got this opportunity when Joe was still the coach there.

“I got ravaged with injuries that year. I still won two trophies at the end of the year, which was really nice, but the trust they put in me when I was injured a lot and offering me another contract showed their loyalty towards me so it was a no-brainer for me.”

Schmidt’s departure for the Ireland job didn’t work out too well for Roux, however, who admits that he “probably didn’t get along that well” with new boss Matt O’Connor and he played only nine times in 2013/14.

The 2014/15 campaign saw Roux shift to Connacht on what was initially a half-season loan that rolled all the way to the end of the season and resulted in him making a permanent move west on a two-year contract.

He helped Connacht to their 2016 Pro12 title under Pat Lam and has enjoyed life with the province ever since, playing superb rugby this season under Friend and extending his contract out to the summer of 2021.

“If I could retire there, it would be good,” says Roux. “I love Galway, my wife loves Galway. The people have been really good to us.

“It’s exciting as well out there because there are a lot of things that are going to come in, and hopefully they can be finished before I retire one day.

Roux has become an important figure at Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It’s exciting and with Friendy there, he’s been putting a lot of confidence in our players. You can see it’s going really well there. Some of our guys are in top form.”

Roux’s Connacht focus is on hold for now as he concentrates on taking his opportunities with Ireland in the Six Nations. 

His debut in green came on the 2016 tour to South Africa and his 10th cap was earned in the starting team against Scotland in the second round of this Six Nations, when Roux impressed in the second row, calling a lineout that delivered a 100% return.

He wasn’t actually named in Ireland’s initial squad for the championship, but injuries to Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson opened the door and after making an impact off the bench against England, he shone versus Scotland.

Roux’s work-rate at the ruck was, typically, team-leading as he arrived at 54 Ireland rucks and also provided the highest number of clearouts with 25.

“It’s not the prettiest thing to look at – people hitting rucks – so that’s not going to get the attention that a really good ball carrier or a really good poacher over the ball is going to get,” says Roux.

“I guess it’s all about the people in the environment who you work with that really appreciate that. And that’s all that really matters.

“It’s the dirty work and someone needs to do it. I kinda take pride in doing that and it’s good to see that some people noticed it on the weekend.”

Roux is playing some of the best rugby of his career. Source: Inpho

Ever the perfectionist, Roux picked out plenty of Irish rucks where he could have made a greater impact and he will hope to be even better against Italy in Rome this weekend.

There are, of course, drawbacks to having uprooted from South Africa to make Ireland his home, but Roux says it’s all worthwhile.

“I’ve never played a game that my parents have seen in Ireland,” says Roux. “It’s tough when the team gets named later in the week. I think they were over for one November series when I wasn’t in the squad. 

“That’s when I ended up playing for the Barbarians against Tonga in Thomond Park [in 2017], so that was nice. 

“That is one tough thing – seeing my parents once, twice a year, if I’m lucky. That is one of the sacrifices you have to make when you move away. It’s tough not seeing them.

“But we found a home here and we have to do the best we can.”

– First published 01.01, 21 February

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy and discuss the week’s biggest stories in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

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