Exeter Chiefs newcomer Josh Tatupu said the chance to sample rugby life in England was one of the reasons behind his decision to join the Aviva Premiership club this summer.
The 25-year-old, who is equally adept on both the wing and in the centre, is one of nine new faces Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has brought to Sandy Park as the Devon club look to tackle their second season in English rugby’s top flight. Arriving from New Zealand last weekend, the Samoan international has quickly been thrown in at the deep end as he joined his new team-mates for a testing first few days of pre-season.
“It’s good to be finally here with the Chiefs,” said Tatupu. “The club seems very professional and everybody is putting in a lot of hard work. I’ve been in a hotel for the first few days, but I’m moving into my house this week, so I should really start to settle in soon. All the boys, though, have been very welcoming and I’m looking forward to it all.”
Having previously plied his trade with Super Rugby side Western Force and Melbourne Storm (Rugby League) in Australia, as well as Otago in New Zealand and, more recently, with French outfit Castres, Tatupu arrives in England with a wealth of experience already at his disposal.
It is, however, the opportunity to try his hand at English rugby which appeals to him right now. He added: “It was something new and different for me to try out. I remember when I played for the Force against a few English sides a few years back, I really enjoyed the trip. I thought England was a nice place.
“Also I was keen to become a Premiership player and try my hand at another style of the game. Over in France I did OK, but my partner didn’t speak French, so she found it hard over there and she was keen to come to England as well.”
“As I said, I am looking forward to it. I’ve spoken to a few of the boys, like Jason Shoemark and Junior Poluleuligaga, and they’ve told me it is a lot more physical compared to back home.”
For now though, Tatupu’s priority is making sure he gets himself fully integrated into Chiefs life and in fine fettle for the new season. That means working hard during the pre-season build up which, he says, has similarities to life back home.
“It’s a tough time for any player, but you know you have to work hard and just get stuck into it,” said the Christchurch-born player. “You have to make the most of this time to ensure you get all your fitness in – already though the trainers are making sure of that!
“I’ve only been here a few days so far, but it’s not a whole lot different to what I have done in the past, the weights side of things are pretty similar and. The biggest difference, I suppose, is when I was in Australia you had a 14-week pre-season and the first half of that was all running and you didn’t see a ball at all. Here it’s good that we are incorporating the anaerobic games into our programmes and that we are getting to do some rugby early on rather than just running up hills all day.”
Certainly Tatupu can expect some hill running in the coming weeks, but with pre-season tests against Connacht, Cornish Pirates and Scarlets on the horizon, the chance to play some ball is never too far away.