AFTER a whirlwind start to his Coventry career, Aussie scrum-half Sam Grasso can say he is now happily settled into his new surrounds and looking forward to a productive season.
The 25-year-old’s feet had scarcely touched the ground before he was called into action for his first taste of Northern Hemisphere rugby, but he quickly put down a marker in pre-season and will make his third National League One start today.
“I flew in on Sunday, trained twice on Monday, played on Tuesday (against Broadstreet) and then played in Jersey on Saturday,” said Brisbane-born Grasso, one of the last additions to Cov’s new-look squad. “It was absolutely not what I expected!
“To be honest, it probably took me two to three weeks to get into the rhythm of things and get over the jet lag, coming from a season back home you need a bit of time to adapt and adjust, but I feel that now I’m starting to get there and to feel settled – my body has caught up and I’m feeling a lot better.
“Everything is going really well. It was a big change from living with one person to living with five or six of the boys, but the playhouse has been really good and I’m starting to find my way around the city.
“It’s a great club playing a quality standard of football and with very passionate fans – all I can say are good things so far.”
Grasso holds an Italian passport and coming over to this side of the world was a long-time ambition.
“Back home I finished Uni and was working as well in the last year I was there, so I had the choice whether to focus on a career or give rugby a crack, and I decided in favour of rugby.
“I was really keen to come to the Northern Hemisphere and have a fresh start – it’s always been a big desire of mine to come here and play, whether in England, France or Italy.
“Those were the options I was looking at, and once I finished my season back home I’d left the run late, but I was very keen to get over here as soon as possible. I’d been speaking to Rowland Winter, and now we’re here.
“There were a few clubs from England that were talking, but probably the biggest lure for me was the ambition, the plans, the desire from Coventry. It just seemed like the best fit for me.”
His first impressions of National League One rugby?
“It probably hasn’t been a surprise, but one of the things I’ve noticed most is the emphasis on the set piece, especially at scrum time. Even though we play an up tempo type of game, the set piece is a really high level.
“In terms of adjusting my game, I’ve had to get used to passing in the wet – I played one wet game all last season at home! – but to be honest, it’s quite nice to play behind a pack that’s going forward at the scrum and we’ve got a good rolling maul, so it’s been a nice change.
“I would say it’s more professional here in terms of the amount of hours the boys are doing than the third tier back home. Even though the standard of rugby could be quite similar, the systems at Coventry are more professional.
“I would hope the style Coventry play suits my strengths. When Rowland said we would be playing an attacking sort of rugby, lots of quick taps and high tempo, I was attracted by that.”
Grasso played his club rugby at Brothers, based in Albion, going on to play for Queensland Country in the National Rugby Championship and has also been part of the Queensland Reds Academy.
“You can play for all three clubs in a year,” he said, “whereas here it is just the league games.
“The biggest thing I’ve been impressed with is the amount of depth in English rugby and I think there’s a lot more on offer here. If you’re not playing premier grade in Australia, in terms of club rugby there’s really not too much for you, while we’ve played National Two sides and they’ve still been relatively strong.”
Prospects for the season? “If we keep going the way we have, I think we should have a pretty successful season. I’m excited, and I think the whole squad’s excited to keep pushing ahead and enjoying themselves.”