Sometimes the most exciting signings are the ones that come out of nowhere and it was certainly the case for us as London Irish fans when, in late July, the club announced the signing of Samoan international TJ Ioane, a hard runner who isn’t afraid to lay some big hits too, he quickly became a fan favourite and when we came to picking up some interviews at the end of the season he was high on our want list!
Let’s start with last weekend. We’ve been promoted, you’ve all celebrated in front of the home crowd and the end of the season is in sight. How does it feel right now?
Yeah… It’s been really good, the boys have really shown resilience throughout the year. It’s not just about fronting up week in, week out, but each week we’re trying to be better and knowing that at the end of the year, if we won we’d get promoted u[ to the Premiership and playing in the most competitive rugby in Europe.
It’s good for us as players and it’s good for the fans too, they want to see Irish excel in the Prem!
You joined us from Sale just as the season was beginning, how did you find it coming from the Prem down into the Championship?
You know, personally, I may have underestimated the Championship. The physicality… I got a shock coming down from the Premiership, you think it’s the pinnacle of rugby and when you come down here you soon realise that for the forwards it’s more physical than some of the games you play in the Prem.
The boys down at this level, a lot of them are bigger in size, and in weight! They don’t wanna move much and ideally you don’t want to run into those big boys because you’ll only come off second best. If you find yourself in the wrong space…
You’ve got to pick those battles, eh?
Exactly! You’ve got to pick and choose the right time. I found that quite easy though, after playing a couple of games!
One of the things a lot of the guys bring up is how different the environment is when you’re facing, say, Pirates or Bedford compared to Welford Road of Kingsholm…
It’s quite a humbling experience to be honest. My first game was Ealing away and I got a shock when I went to go the toilet and found I was sharing with the opposition and also the supporters. That was a bit weird for me standing next to my opponents… You kind of have to just block that out and get up for it on the pitch though.
It’s almost like going back to grass roots rugby.
At this time of year we can’t help but look forward to the World Cup. I’m sure you’re hoping to be there!
Yeah, I’m hoping to, for sure. For us Samoa boys we’ve got a lot of depth in the loose forward department, you could pick out of a hat who you take and anyone you select will make the most of the opportunity and do the jersey proud!
It just depends on what mix they decide to take, so yeah, always hopeful but you’re never guaranteed.
You can only try to prepare yourself, whether they call you up or you miss out you’re ready if the call comes.
For yourself, you had to miss out on the autumn internationals due to injury but you seem to be back to 100% now!
I’m treading along quite nicely at the moment. I probably timed the injury quite well, it was cold and miserable then so I could stay in the gym! I was pretty bummed with being out and whatnot but being back and catching the back end of the season with the sun shining it’s been some really enjoyable rugby.
That sort of weather seems to suit your game, you’re certainly a player who likes to pick up the ball and run with it…
It does, but then in winter it helps the other parts of your game more. You appreciate the mauling and the hard graft that goes unseen. You really learn to appreciate that stuff when it’s cold and wet, but when the sun comes out you can go and express yourself more in terms of running the ball, showing your footwork and stuff. It’s good to get that balance and be just as good in the rain as you are in the warm!
Big thanks to the club, and to @RugbyLI for their continued participation in bringing you these interviews.