The 19-year-old former St Olaves student has signed a three-year deal with the French side, probably best known to English fans for their rout of Leicester in the 1997 European Cup final, and will fly out in July to join his new team-mates for pre-season.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for Grandidier, who will be staying in a studio apartment in the club’s Academy residence during his stay there, and one that he simply couldn’t pass up, as he explained.
“I’d been thinking about a possible move to France ever since being at school,” he said. “I hadn’t managed to get any attention from English Academies at the time and my mum is French and I speak the language so I thought it could be a possible option. But I didn’t have any means of getting in contact with teams over there.
“Then in September last year, following my games in OEs' 1st XV against Loughborough and Sale, I signed with an agency - Inside Rugby. I mentioned my French nationality to them and told them that I was keen to go over there and they looked after it from there. They got in contact with several clubs and luckily a few came back with some interest.”
Grandidier, who impressed in three games against France playing for the England Sevens Academy in March, received offers from Oyonnax, Castres and Toulon. But it was Brive, currently top of Pro D2 (French second division) who could win promotion back to the Top 14 this weekend under the guidance of head coach, former Ireland and British Lions lock Jeremy Davidson, that convinced the young winger where his future lay.
“My initial reaction was just excitement,” the winger said of the interest shown by the French clubs, “and a bit of relief because it meant that I had some qualities that they must be looking for and that I wasn’t being overly optimistic in wanting to go to a club in France.
“I chose Brive because out of all the clubs I visited, they were the most welcoming club. I had good vibes from them and they were the most professional club - from the physical testing I had to do, through to the training.”
One of Elthamians’ first four beneficiaries of their ground-breaking partnership with St Mary’s University which began in September last year, Grandidier helped the Students romp to the BUCS South B title in his first year at Strawberry Hill and admits leaving the university programme early was a tough choice to make.
“It was a very difficult decision,” he said. “The OEs/St Mary’s programme has been a great environment for me to grow as a player and I’ve improved significantly over the last year thanks to the coaching there. I also had a good link with the England Sevens Academy at the time which made things even harder.
“But I’m very excited to be going to play in France. It’s a totally new environment for me and I think being put into a new and different environment is going to help me improve as a player. I think the way the French play the game is very much going to suit my playing style.”
Grandidier added: “It is a big step, but it’s a step in the right direction, I hope. I think the main goal for me is to play a first team fixture. This will be a huge personal milestone and one that I’ve always dreamed of. Once I get there I’m in the shop window then I’ve just got to take my opportunities when they come and keep pushing myself to get better.”