Leicester Mercury

‘Pandemic was tough’

MORONI LOOKING FORWARD TO SOCIALISIN­G WITH TIGERS TEAM-MATES

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MATIAS Moroni is enjoying life at Leicester Tigers, despite all the challenges that moving to a new club and country amid a pandemic posed him, writes Kit Shepard.

The centre’s move to Tigers from the Jaguares was announced last July, but he did not arrive in England until four months later after injury ruled him out of Argentina’s Rugby Championsh­ip campaign.

He arrived in a country in its second national lockdown and a third only a few weeks away, and has unsurprisi­ngly found the transition tricky.

“It’s really difficult,” admitted the 30-year-old, pictured.

“I told my wife while we were going to be in England, we will travel a lot, we will have a lot of free weeks, we can have our families coming to visit us – none of that happens.

“We arrived with quarantine, we couldn’t do anything, so it’s difficult.

“The first two, three months were very tough.

“Too many papers, too many things to do, but now I am more settled.”

Moroni has been helped by the presence of three fellow Argentinia­ns - Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Tomas Lavanini and Julian Montoya – in the Tigers squad.

“It was a little easier because I had some Argentinia­ns in the team before I came, so they make the things easier for me,” he said.

“We know each other from a long time ago, we are friends, so that makes the thing easier for us, so I am happy to have them here and I hope they are happy to have me here.

“Obviously, it’s easier to speak Spanish with them, but English with the guys – when they speak really fast, we are lost!”

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announceme­nt on Monday that Covid-19 restrictio­ns will be eased as planned next week, Moroni is eager to get to know the entire Tigers squad better.

“We cannot join with the guys here and foster their culture, so I think that in these coming weeks, [when] it all starts again, we can socialise more with other people with other people.”

On the pitch, Moroni has slotted into the Tigers side seamlessly, making 14 appearance­s this season and impressing head coach Steve Borthwick with how quickly he has adapted to English rugby.

He credits his impact to his fiercely, and deep-rooted, competitiv­e nature, which is reflected in his aggressive style of play.

“When I was young, if I lost in a football match in school, I cried!” said Moroni.

“So I think when I was young, I feel that thing inside that I want to win, I don’t like to lose, and I will do my best to win.

“That’s why I like to play this way, and when I don’t play that way, maybe I can lose, but if I feel that I leave all on the field, I feel comfortabl­e and I can go to sleep calmly.

“I came here saying that I’m not the best kicker, I’m not the best passer, but I will play the first minute and the last minute the same way, that’s the way I play and that’s what I like to do.”

Despite his impressive start to life in Leicester, Moroni is not fully satisfied.

“I think that I can play better, but I always try to do my best, and I think that always we can improve, so I would like to continue playing and have good matches.”

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