It was only a day into spring and the rugby world had its eyes firmly set on Leicester after the announcement that international superstar Nemani Nadolo would become a member of the Tigers Family in Season 2020/21.
The signing was first rumoured during the festive season and while Tigers fans were keen to see Nadolo’s name under the tree, the belated Christmas gift of someone of his talent was worth the wait for the Leicester faithful.
The Fijian, currently playing in France, has wowed crowds all over the globe in a career spanning more than a decade – across both hemispheres – and seen the barnstorming back and sharp-shooter register more than 1,000 career points.
Currently, like his future Tigers team-mates, coaches and colleagues, as well as Leicester supporters, Nadolo is cooped up at home as the globe deals with the corona virus pandemic and, in a LeicesterTigers.com exclusive, discusses his decision to pack up his life in the south of France and make the move to Welford Road this summer.
LeicesterTigers.com [LT]: Nemani, thank you for taking some time out for a chat. We hope you and the family are ok, dealing with the social distancing in place?
Nemani Nadolo [NN]: We’re all good here, it’s just weird really!
It’s nice being at home with my [pregnant] wife, who is getting bigger now, and for me to be able to help out around the house at this time for her … especially handling our two, massive Rottweilers!
LT: How are you managing training away from your team-mates?
NN: I’m still training, just with one or two mates and not the squad. That’s the weird part, not training with team-mates and having a programme to follow together as a squad.
All in all, I’m just focusing on making sure the wife is ok! As they say, happy wife means happy life.
LT: Looking ahead. Can you tell us, almost a month on from the signing being announced, why Leicester? What made Tigers the choice above other clubs chasing you?
NN: Historically, it’s one of the most prestigious clubs in European rugby and, when an opportunity came around for me to come to Leicester and join Tigers, I jumped at the opportunity.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about the club and I owe a big thanks to Lote Tuqiri, who helped the ball rolling!
LT: You have been a part of successful, big clubs before, where does Tigers rank and compare from first impressions?
NN: From the outside it looks like a club with a rich history.
It’s an old club and the one thing I love about it, from what I have seen, is that the support is great and the whole town gets behind the club. It’s similar to a team I use to play for in New Zealand, the Crusaders.
Seeing the stadium [Welford Road] pack out each week, no matter how the team is going, looks unreal watching on TV. The fans are there for the team. I can’t wait.
I can’t wait to have a chance to train hard for an opportunity to play at the famous Welford Road.
LT: What have you made of conversations with Geordan [Murphy] and staff at the club so far, about your role in the next step of the Tigers journey?
NN: Mate, Tigers is everything I’m looking for in a club.
Geordan and the people I have met and spoken to so far have been great. The facilities at the training ground and medical area are all great and the staff have been great with the conversations I had before signing.
But, for me it was that it’s family first, and the vision they have moving forward is something I would love to be a part of.
LT: You know a few members of the squad already and have played with some of them before as well. Have you spoken with them about joining?
NN: I’ve kept in touch with a few of the Islander Boys in Leicester – Taf [Polota-Nau], Jordy [Taufua], Telusa [Veainu] and Manu [Tuilagi].
I was in the same squad as Taf back in 2010 at the Waratahs and played alongside Jordy at the Crusaders for three years.
I’ve also played against Telusa a few times, for Fiji against Tonga.
LT: Finally, you mentioned how impressed you are with what you have seen of Tigers fans. To sign off, do you have any messages for them?
NN: I can’t wait to get there, roll my sleeves up and rip in! This is a great opportunity for me and also my family, to come set up shop in your town.
Give me a chance to prove myself before you write me off.
I will work hard to earn the respect of the fans by doing my talking on the field.
I hope everyone is doing well during this tough time for us all and am excited to get over to Leicester and meet you all.
Much love to the Tigers Family at this time! See you all soon.