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TJ Ioane reflects, talks about the lessons

Life for Manu Samoa loose forward, TJ Ioane, is slowly getting back to normal after his heroic Rugby World Cup performance.

 He is making his return to the field with London Irish after a massive effort at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The tireless Ioane made 16.75 tackles per game during the tournament, more than any other player, and will start at flanker for his English club when they take on Saracens on Sunday morning Samoan time.

The 30-year-old has played in England since 2015, and he said it’s a good place to live, albeit a different lifestyle to what he’s used to from Samoa and New Zealand.

“Everything’s quite hectic,” Ioane said.

And the weather presents a real adjustment too; Ioane has returned to an English winter where temperatures struggle to reach the tens.

“I thought Dunedin was cold!” he said of the southernmost New Zealand city he used to play in.

“[English] summers are kinda like New Zealand winters at times.”

The greater adjustment for Ioane, who was raised in Samoa until the age of six, was the style of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere.

He said in New Zealand you are always told to just play naturally and instinctively:

“I learnt that side of the game, playing the opportunities in front of you and the pictures that are presented to you on the field.

“When I got to England I had to learn the opposite, learn the tight game.

“Learn your graft as a loose forward, learn the mauls, learn the lineouts, learn the scrums.”

Ioane, who is from the villages of Vaie’e, Saleimoa, Lalovaea, said all those details and position-specific roles make for a very different approach to the game.

“You appreciate scrums a bit more, in New Zealand we just scrummed two seconds to release the backs,” Ioane laughed.

“Over there you scrum for penalties.”

Having had a rugby education in both styles, the loose forward thinks he brings real versatility to the Manu Samoa.

The national team struggled at the World Cup, picking up just one win to miss the quarterfinals.

Ioane said it’s hard for the fans who only get a glimpse of the work the team puts in.

“Sometimes the score doesn’t reflect how hard we work,” he said.

“It hurts us as much as it hurts our supporters and our families.”

Ioane said Samoan people are so passionate, and sometimes overly so when it comes to the Manu:

“Everyone becomes a coach when the team’s not going so well. We don’t go out there not putting our best foot forward.”

He said the fans, the players, everyone hurts together after a bad result.

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