Team Canada prop Andrew Tiedemann is getting paid to play the sport he loves after signing a contract with FC Auch Gers.
Tiedemann, 24, left Tuesday to join the Auch-based club in Rugby Pro D2, the second tier in the French professional league system.
“I’m pretty excited to realize my dream of playing pro sports,” said the senior men's national team player since 2009. “It’s something I wanted to do for a while now. I’ve had an agent working for me for the last couple of years and that hadn’t really produced anything but then Tony Healy, my former under-20 coach and now friend, came through with this deal. He played in France for years. He has a lot of friends over there that still work in rugby and they worked something out for me.”
The rugby product of the Lorne Akins Gators, Paul Kane Blues and St. Albert Rugby Football Club was recruited to replace an injured player.
“It sounds like the guy is going to be out for the rest of the season so I got a six-month guaranteed contract,” said Tiedemann.
He is not the only import on Auch’s predominantly French line-up.
“There is a lot of money over there to bring guys in,” said the former university player with the University of Victoria Vikes.
The six-foot, 275-pound Tiedemann brings his impressive scrimmaging skills at the tighthead position to Auch.
“Scrummaging for the French is pretty big. It’s at a very high standard, basically international, because there is a lot of international players that play in France, including the second division,” he said. “They want their props to be big and push hard in the scrum and once that’s taken care of then you can branch out and start playing with the ball a bit more.”
Auch is tied for seventh in the 16-team table in the early stages of the 30-game home and away schedule. In recent years the club has bounced between the first-level Top 14 League, championship winners in 2004 and 2007, and Pro D2.
“The overall calibre I would say is between our regional provincial stuff, like the CRC [Canadian Rugby Championship circuit] and international games,” said Tiedemann, captain of the Calgary-based Prairie Wolfpack in the CRC this year. “Obviously there is going to be a little bit of nervousness when I get to Auch. There is going to be a lot of change but I’m kind of looking forward to that little bit of excitement.
“I only know two words of French so that will be interesting.”
Founded in 1981, the club plays at the 7,000 seat Stade Patrice Brocas in Auch, an ancient town located in the region of Midi-Pyrenees in southwestern France.
“It sounds like the whole town shuts down and goes and watches the game on Saturday,” Tiedemann said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
Tiedemann’s introduction to the sport started with the Lorne Akins co-ed flag rugby program and his framed Canada jersey hangs in a prominent location in the school alongside the jersey of another illustrious Gators’ alumnus, hockey star Jarome Iginla.
In high school, Tiedemann was a noted two-way football player for the St. Albert High Skyhawks and is considered one of the very best rugby players to graduate from Paul Kane.
Tiedemann also played age-group rugby for St. Albert and was a member of the club’s U16 provincial championship team in 2004.
At the U18 level he scrummed down for Alberta at the 2005 Canada Summer Games and the next year was named to the all-star team at the Rugby Canada National Championships Festival.
Tiedemann also represented Canada at the U17 level in England and the U19 and U20 worlds in Ireland and Wales. His first and only main season of senior rugby for St Albert was with the 2007 second division provincial champions before commitments with Canada and the Vikes kept his appearances with the home club to a minimum.
Tiedemann is also only the second player in St. Albert history to play for the senior national team and the first to see action at the World Cup of Rugby last year in New Zealand. His 14 caps in nine wins and five losses are the most ever by a St. Albert player.
“I’ve done a lot in rugby so far but getting my first pro contract is definitely a highlight.”