Learning Italian is not a skill Zebre’s new signing Daniel Halangahu can afford to labour over as the Australian knows his RaboDirect PRO12 adventure can only really take off once he is speaking like a native.
Whereas overseas forwards can muddle through by learning the Italian for ‘lineout’, ‘lift’ and ‘push’, playmakers, such as Halangahu, need to be fluent communicators.
Director of rugby Roberto Manghi is also keen for him to help bring on the next generation of Italian youngsters such as inside centre Alberto Benettin and wing Leonardo Sarto – a task Halangahu concedes will be much easier once he’s speaking their language.
And while the former New South Wales Waratah is brushing up on his Italian verbs he is also aiming to turnaround Zebre’s imperfect start to the season which sees them winless after three games.
“We are a young side, as a team which has just started up and with the age of our players,” said Halangahu.
“We have come together quite quickly and people expect that it will take time for us to develop.
“Even though our last result (a 41-10 reversal in Edinburgh) wasn’t what we wanted we will soon see improvements.
“I came here because I wanted to embrace a different culture and it was the right time to leave the Waratahs.
“It’s a very different game over here though and I’ve got to get used to how they play and then see where my best position is.
“I have played a lot at 10 in Australia but I have to speak a lot more Italian if I’m going to play there.
“I’ll have to learn pretty quickly and I’m picking it up from the other guys but me and my girlfriend are really keen to learn it as quickly as possible so we’ll have to find the right tutor.
“With the English that the young guys in the squad speak and my Italian we can understand each other and I try and help them as much as I can.
“Some of them are really happy to learn about how I go about things and we'll get on better as I improve at the language.”
Halangahu spent six years at the Waratahs helping them reach the Super 14 final in 2008 and the semi-finals in 2010.
But on both occasions the utility back was surplus to frontline requirements, only clocking a total of two minutes’ action in the 25-6 loss to the Stormers two years ago.
While Zebre’s chances of making the play-offs this season look slim at best, Halangahu believes they can still succeed within the franchise’s aim of bettering Aironi’s four wins last year and by developing Italian talent for the national side.
“I’m here to play rugby and do my best and hopefully achieve something with this side,” he added.
“Winning a game is the first step and we’ve had a few teething issues but I am sure we’ll come round and have a successful season.
“It’s important we develop young guys for the Italian team and with me not being available for that, my job is to help them prepare.
“We’ve got some really good athletes at the club like Alberto Benettin, I think he has got the skill set to go a long way and Lorenzo Sarto has also impressed me.
“Then there’s the older guys like our captain Gonzalo Garcia – he is an absolute beast and he’s coming back from injury so I could be moved around the backline again soon, but I’ll play wherever I’m needed.”