After touching down in Leicester, new recruit Tomas Lavanini chats about why he made the move from Buenos Aires to the East Midlands of England and shares what he already knows about his new club, as well as what Tigers fans can expect from the Argentinian international.
Unsurprisingly, it is the tough stuff that Tomas Lavanini is most excited about throwing himself into when he starts the next chapter in his rugby career as a Tigers player.
The Argentinian enforcer touched down in England this week after his international commitments ended with the Los Pumas at the 2019 Rugby World Cup a fortnight ago and, for the first time since it was announced that he had signed with Tigers in May of this year, Lavanini has spoken about why he chose to trade in Buenos Aires for Leicester, Super Rugby for the Premiership and what the Welford Road faithful can expect from him in the red, white and green.
It is the physicality and the collisions in the game that I like a lot.Tomas Lavanini
After a tour of the club’s Oval Park training base and first chance to meet some his new team-mates, Lavanini leans forward to lean on the pitch-side fence in order to be at eye-level with this interviewer who doesn’t quite cast the same shadow as the intimidating Tigers recruit.
“I knew Marcos [Ayerza] was here [at Leicester Tigers] and he told me about the history of the club and its importance here in England,” recalls the Argentine international when asked of what he already knows about his new club.
“Marcos told me that it’s one of the most historical clubs here in England and I started getting more involved and following Tigers games after that match in 2015 in Leicester.
“I’m also very close friends with Horacio Agulla, who has told me all about Tigers and his nice experiences here in Leicester with the people and winning championships for Tigers.”
Yet to get the tour of Welford Road, Lavanini is no stranger to the historic home of the Tigers Family after already playing a game - for Argentina - at the Leicester rugby venue in 2015 when retiring club legend Ayerza’s home nation took on his beloved club in a tribute match to the international front-rower.
Looking back on that opportunity, he says the “emotion” and “passion” of the home supporters was what he remembers most.
“I felt it was very emotional to play here after I played in his testimonial game for Argentina in 2015,” says the 26-year-old.
“We felt the passion and the love of the people and it was very moving to play at Welford Road for me.”
Cut from the same cloth as many Tigers legends who those passionate Leicester supporters have loved throughout the club’s history, the addition of Lavanini is a clear indication of Geordan Murphy’s want to bolster his forward ranks and add more power to his pack.
So, when asked about if the physicality of the English club game is something that he’s looking forward to experiencing, his response will music to the ears of Tigers fans who have waited almost six months to see one of the game’s most feared men line-up in Leicester colours.
Looking over the pitches he will spend most of his time mid-week in Oadby starting next Monday, Lavanini pauses, smiles and says: “That excites me the most.”
Then, after another pause, while staring at this interviewer, the 6ft 7in, 20-stone Puma-turned-Tiger adds, “It is the physicality and the collisions in the game that I like a lot.”
Coming from Super Rugby side the Jaguares who Lavanini played a key role in helping get to the Southern Hemisphere competition’s final this year, the tight-five member continues to show an obvious delight at now being in a more forward-focused environment.
“Super Rugby is a very dynamic game and English rugby is very different from what I know,” he says.
“That excites me.”
It appears he could spend a day discussing his favourite parts of being involved in the ‘tough stuff’ the game allows men his size and shape to enjoy so much, but what else does the newest Tiger in town want to bring to Leicester?
I’m really excited to form part of this new chapter in Leicester and, if I get the chance to play, I will be sure to give my best.Tomas Lavanini
Fully aware of the recent disappointment the players, coaches and supporters have been through, he is focused solely on helping the club climb back up to the heights it has achieved in the past as part of the new “chapter” being written by Murphy’s men and enjoying himself along the way.
“I know this is a very historical club, as I said earlier,” says Lavanini.
“I’m really excited to form part of this new chapter in Leicester and, if I get the chance to play, I will be sure to give my best and try to make everything possible to have a nice experience here and help this club.”
A pause, another look over the Oval Park pitches and Lavanini smirks before summing up his feelings - and the many Leicester Tigers supporters who have been eagerly awaiting his arrival - in five words: “I just want to play.”