So'otala Fa'aso'o vs El Niche Cache

 Cheek to cheek.

Cheek to cheek.

From South Auckland to Paris, not a bad journey for a 22-year-old right?

First of all, explain how the move to France came about...

It was rather random to be honest. I was in Malaysia playing in a invitational 10s tournament and I had found out the week before that I didn't get a Super rugby contract. My agent sent me a message saying Racing was interested and I just jumped at it, it was a chance to be a full time professional for the first time.

Was something you had always thought of doing, but later in your career?

Yeah it was always the plan to eventually go overseas, but guess some things happen quicker then others.

What are some major differences in the resources and set up at Racing, compared to your recent domestic campaign with Counties Manukau?

The easiest way to explain it is; yes we are a rugby club but it's a business too and it's very obvious, where as back home it's really separate (the rugby and business sides). Here we are all under the same roof, they do their thing we do ours. We are a privately owned club so constraints are dictated by how deep or shallow our presidents pockets are. So facilities, e.g. gym, medical, and recovery are state of the art here - compared to back home. 

What have been the most difficult aspects of French rugby for you to adjust to so far?

The language by far. Rugby is a simple game and we do things more or less the same but it's the finer details I may miss as it all explained in French, which is completely fair as I'm in France where they speak French and not English. 

Do you believe that the style of rugby over there suits your game as a loose forward - if so, why/why not?

Like I said before, rugby is a simple game and we do things that everyone else does, only difference is that everyone has a different way of achieving things. I like to think of myself as an adaptable player, so I try not worry about what I can't do and what I can.

What do you consider to your strongest attributes?

My ability to get over the gain line and the physical presence are what I bring to a game. I'd like to say I have an above-average rugby IQ to.

What aspects of your game are you looking to improve on over in France?

Definitely my all-round game. I want to try round out my game here, especially with the abundance of international experience here. 

Are there any exercises or training drills/skills that you make sure you do at every training sessions?

I always do catch/pass stuff, as it's something I'd say is a weakness. I also try make sure I use my feet as much as possible so I'm not running into collisions head on all the time. 

How do you go about enjoying French food and maintaining your optimum playing weight?

The food is amazing here, obviously there are things that are acquired tastes but otherwise it's just amazing. In terms of weight management, I try to watch what I eat but sometimes it can't be helped so I'll make sure I go and put my work in at the gym. 

What's your favourite meal to eat away from rugby?

Island food to be honest, it's hard to get everything to make it here so when I do get some I defs cherish it haha. 

Talk us through trying to establish yourself as a professional rugby player while also studying - challenges, positives, how you do it etc?

I'm currently not studying, but when I was it was a struggle as it was a huge balancing act, no matter how smart or good you are, something is always gonna give. A big challenge was trying to have a social life away from rugby and study. Positives, knowing that you got something to back you up and also a sense of achievement to. To be honest I just winged it and tried to smile as much as possible and not dwell too much on things that were done and gone. 

Are there any players who you have looked up to and what have you learned from watching them that you apply today?

My team mates back at Counties always say to just play rugby and play what's in front and not get too overly caught up in the system sometimes. Jimmy Tupou always harps on to me about trust and jumping early so that's something I try and implement as much as possible. I'm learning a lot from Ali Williams to, around the holistic side of the game but also the finer details. Chris Masoe helps a lot to, and he's defs a great man for the off the field stuff. Can't name all of them, but that's just a few that spring to mind.

Who has hit/tackled you the hardest in your career?

Can definitely say I've been hit hard a lot - to put a name on it would be hard. But I would just say that the South African and Argentinian boys don't hold back and of course the Island brothers.

What's the best advice you have received?

Rugby is a simple game, so don't complicate and don't forget to have fun. 

What advice would you give to a young athlete?

Not to rush. I think there is a huge rush for young athletes to try make it, some get luck and that's just life. Just think of it as more time for you to refine your skills and add more tools to your toolbox away from the pressures that are professional sport, and to not have any regrets around any decisions made.