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The converted No. 8, who was a Super League prop at 20, and, don’t forget, is only 23, has spent a full season with London Welsh (after deferring that decision for a year), and comes back to the Eagles a far more hardened and polished player.
“I think it was the right decision to put [coming to England] off and coming this year it’s been great,” Pittman told RUGBYmag.com.
Pittman played in the Championship league, the RFU’s 2nd-tier professional competition, for London Welsh. The league is full of experienced, tough front row players, and Pittman faced them all.
“Going against players who are older than you and know how to scrum has been great,” explained the former USA U20 player from northern Washington state. “There were a bunch of ex-internationals on the teams. Every week I went up against difficult opponents. I don’t think I was subbed out all season, so I got to play a full 80 every time.”
That game time was key for the young prop. Many Americans go overseas and struggle to get game time, so Pittman logging over 1,600 minutes at tighthead – the equivalent to three Super League season - is supremely valuable for his development.
“It’s great having our coach who lets us try a lot and puts us back out there,” Pittman explained. “It’s nice getting so much time to be able to constantly scrum in a high level atmosphere, and I think just having more and more scrums every week has been valuable to me. The people I play with on the London Welsh team have really helped me out.”
Lorne Ward, who is 34 and has played 134 times at prop for London Welsh is a prime example of the type of experience Pittman can draw on.
“The standard playing here is certainly higher [than in the US],” added Pittman. “Everybody just knows how to play rugby; they’re born with it and it’s their sport.”
Being an American on such a club isn’t always easy, but Pittman has been accepted the way athletes have been accepted since time immemorial: teasing.
“The Welsh boys give it to me a big about being an American,” Pittman said. “It’s all in good fun.”
When Will Johnson has joined the club on loan from London Irish, they can divide a conquer somewhat.
“I am slowly learning the dark art of banter. It’s coming along slowly, but I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near where the other boys on the club are.”
Now it’s back to being one of many Americans on the team. Pittman will meet the USA team in London when they fly to the Churchill Cup next week. It’s a nice role for the still-young player to take on – one of quasi host.
“I’m very excited about everything coming up,” said Pittman. “I love getting back with the national team. Everybody’s so welcoming; everybody wants to know what you’ve been up to. Good to see old friends. Now I am looking forward to the Churchill Cup, and the World Cup. My first cap was the year after the World Cup and I remember the players all talking about it. I’ve been looking forward to it all ever since I got my first cap.”
A young pro rugby player with a great career still in front of him, Pittman hopes to help London Welsh earn promotion to the Premiership next season and he wants to win some games with the USA.
But that’s all in the future. Right now is pretty good.
“I couldn’t be happier this year,” he said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be right now.”