Feature Interview | Lozowski thriving after French adventure
This time last year, Alex Lozowski spent Christmas in France, away from his girlfriend and close family and with his then Montpellier team-mates and support staff for company.
Christmas 2021 looks very different for the 28-year-old who is now back with Saracens and loving life at StoneX Stadium once again.
Playmaker Lozowski was on loan at French TOP14 giants Montpellier last season and after a tough start, helped them to European Challenge Cup glory.
Moving abroad for work has its challenges at any point, but doing so in the midst of a global pandemic is particularly tough. Lozowski quickly found that out.
“I was really happy to get back to Saracens after my time in France,” he said.
“It was a massively valuable experience for me, not just for the rugby but as a life experience as well. “If I think back to this time last year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come home or not and I hadn’t seen any of my family in England for months. In the end, I was stuck in France for Christmas and the season and the year presented its challenges.
“My mum Lisa was kind enough to send over a Christmas pudding for one. She also sent me a lot of other nice things, but I particularly enjoyed the Christmas pudding! I actually spent Christmas Day with Montpellier’s team manager Tom Whitford.
“He’s an Englishman who used to work at Toulon and is a great guy. It was nice to have a fellow Englishman with me and I went to his house on Christmas Day. After that, I went for a couple of mince pies at Bismarck du Plessis’ house. It wasn’t Christmas for one, luckily.”
Lozowski moved away from his girlfriend Charlotte when he joined Montpellier, but his new team struggled following his arrival.
But in the end, the team turned the corner and won the Challenge Cup. Lozowski has continued his form on returning to Saracens and has stood out in the Gallagher Premiership.
“It’s been good to be back in the Saracens group and I was really excited at the start of the season to be playing again in the Premiership,” he said.
“There were some difficult and big games to start the season. On the whole, I’ve been pretty pleased with how it’s gone for me and the team.
“In the end, we had a strong end to the season with Montpellier which coincided with things opening up a little bit in France as well which was nice.
“At times, we were in the middle of an intense lockdown where things were pretty strict and it meant I couldn’t really experience France as I would have liked to.
“At the start of the season we were losing a lot of games which was disappointing for the team. The first period wasn’t ideal, but to come through it and have a bit more of a normal life in April and May coincided with a few more wins for the team.
“It was a rollercoaster of a journey which was in the end enjoyable and stands me in good stead for where I am now.
“I got together with my girlfriend at the beginning of last year before coronavirus started. The pandemic coincided with some of the issues we faced at Saracens relating to the salary cap.
“I took the decision to go and play in France. I left my girlfriend and parents here and I think I was probably quite optimistic about how the pandemic would pan out.
“Maybe foolishly, I thought it would be over quicker than it was and I’d be able to come back and see them and they could come and see me. In the end, I went from September to the Challenge Cup semi-final in Bath which was in April without seeing them apart from when my girlfriend came over to France on one occasion. It wasn’t ideal at all, but I also had some great team-mates in France who I got on with very well. That was nice and I’ll always be grateful for the friendships I made in France.
“I made the effort to ensure the apartment I had in Montpellier was a two-bed and that there was space for six people. Unfortunately, the spare room collected dust for a year!
“It wasn’t meant to be, but that’s life and I just had to get on with it.”
Lozowski has helped Mark McCall’s Saracens to an impressive start to the new Gallagher Premiership season. The men in black are second in the table, behind leaders Leicester Tigers.
Lozowski added: “On the whole and looking back, I think I got a huge amount from France. At times, especially when we were losing, it was tough going in the league.
“Sometimes I wondered if I’d done the right thing, but now I know I’ve benefitted from it massively. “The standard in France is incredible and every week you come against phenomenal, skillful players. “It was a constant, physical challenge you had to stand up to each week. There was George Moala at Clermont, Levani Botia at La Rochelle and Pita Ahki in Toulouse. It was a relentless cycle of playing against top players and it was brilliant for me.
“If you leave Saracens to join a French club, the expectation is going to be high. We got off to a pretty poor start and I was one of four or five players put on a list of the most underwhelming signings in France which was disappointing to put it mildly.
They had a bit of a pop at me which was fine, but they probably didn’t know the ins and outs of what was going on at Montpellier at the time. “It wasn’t straight forward or plain sailing. In the end, I was just happy to achieve something with the team by winning the Challenge Cup. I still speak to a lot of the Montpellier players now and to win that final at Twickenham was a really magic moment I’ll always cherish.”