At the end of the first Zebre training session of the week, which will eventually bring the Italian side to their second consecutive away game in Scotland, we approached the Samoan Sinoti Sinoti, one of three Southern hemipshere foreigners in the white & black roster.
The player spoke to us about his new position on the field, his seasonal objectives and about Italian rugby and its relationship with the Italian fans, who are so devoted to the explosive playing style of the former Hawke’s Bay and Toulon winger.
The 27 year old Samoan played a total of 23 RaboDirect PRO12 games, 20 last season wearing Aironi’s shirt and 3 with the new Italian franchise of Zebre, where he has started at full-back in their first three games. Sinoti scored a try during Zebre’s last appearance at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh in round 3. Sinoti To'omaga Sinoti also achieved a cap with his national team Samoa in 2010 in their winning away match Vs Japan.
How do you feel playing at full-back after several years as winger?
I am enjoying the new challenge. I have played my whole professional career as a specialist winger & a few games at centre, but this season I have been given the opportunity to expand my game. I like having more space and the freedom fullback provides attacking from the back, but is a difficult position to play and I am still learning the inside and outside of it, but I am trying my best to do a good job there.
Do you prefer starting from behind having more opportunity to be a ball-carrier?
For me there is no difference where I start. If you are a player hungry for work & you are making yourself available you will always have attacking opportunities. I always try to be involved in the game as much as I can, I think you have to create your own opportunities, that’s just my style of play.
Four tries last season, one in the first three games of RaboDirect PRO12 2012/2013, what's your personal target?
Before every game I ask my girlfriend how many tries she would like me to score and she always says 3! Obviously every player likes to score tries, and I always try my hardest to score or provide opportunities for my team mates to score. For me its not about how many tries I score by myself, but more that Zebre as a team score tries!
One try during Zebre's last game in Scotland, how do you train for the next Scottish away game next Friday?
I don’t think there is any difference in preparation from week to week. I always start fresh and go into any game like it is the first game of the season trying to play hard at my best.
Introducing the next game in Glasgow, what kind of game Zebre are expecting?
I think that Glasgow will be very physical up-front: it will be a real battle of the forwards. Also I think they will look to put pressure on our back three as we are a new combination, but I think we can handle it.
Second season in Italy, how do you judge Italian rugby being a foreigner?
I think rugby in Italy is growing every year and there is a lot of potential here. Historically Italians have been really physical and have had a strong forward pack, but with the way the game has evolved in recent years I think there needs to be more focus on attacking through the backline and quick ball play. There are some really talented backs in Italy that would benefit from that style of play.
What do we have to do in this country to challenge the most powerful European clubs?
I think it is all about belief and having the right mentality. At the end of the day they have 15 men on the field and we have 15 men on the field, we just have to want it more. When we are down we have to stay positive, believe that we can get back up and fight to get there: don’t give up until the whistle blows at 80 minutes.
Where could Zebre finish this season? What do you think are the team's targets?
I know that as an organization Zebre aim is to win more than Aironi's four successful games of last season. But I don’t think that we should focus only on five wins and think that is successful. I think we need to push ourselves and expect that we should win all of our games.
Your the testimonial of our seasonal ticket campaign. You're very appreciated on the field by supporters. What is your relationship with Italian fans?
I am really appreciative of the support from our fans, especially the Italian ones because everyone here is so passionate. Sometimes I still get surprised that people want to take photos or have autographs because I really am just a normal guy. But I enjoy meeting the supporters, especially the kids because they are so excited, and that is what I was like as a child looking up to my favourite players.
What is it like playing as a full professional without any holiday, you played in the last two seasons of New Zealand’s ITM Cup with Hawke's Bay during the summer, didn't you?
It was really hard on my body, I played the 2011 ITM Cup final with Hawke's Bay on Sunday (scoring a try in the successful game helping his side to be promoted to premiership), left New Zealand on Wednesday, arrived in Italy on Friday and started playing for Aironi the following Saturday. But I’m the kind of person who has to play rugby. I love to play and I cherish every opportunity I get to play a game so I will never complain.
What are your personal goals and what do you want to achieve this season as a rugby player?
Every year my goal is to play my best for my coaches, my team and for myself. This is my job, but I know how lucky and blessed I am to be in this position to do what I love for a living, so my goal is to always enjoy it, have fun and go out there knowing I gave 100%.