After a frustrating World Cup with Samoa, it was little wonder that Kieron Fonotia was champing at the bit to return to action in Scarlets colours.
The centre was the first of the Scarlets’ 15-strong contingent who played in Japan to return to domestic duties, coming off the bench for the second half of the 46-7 defeat to Edinburgh at Murrayfield last Saturday.
It wasn’t the kind of triumphant return Fonotia had hoped for, but the 31-year-old was just happy to get some game time after playing a bit part for the South Sea Islanders in the Far East.
It has also been a chance to reunite with Brad Mooar who was his coach at his first club side in Christchurch.
“Brad coached me at club rugby when I was 21 and then with the Crusaders, he is a bloody good man and brings a lot of excitement and enjoyment to the group,” he said.
“He just brings a lot of energy, he has been like that since I first met him. He has always said this is like another day at Disneyland, it is your dream job. It is nice to work with him again.”
Samoa won one of their four pool matches in Japan, beating Russia but losing out to Scotland, Japan and Ireland. As for Fonotia, he only managed three appearances off the bench.
“The World Cup was pretty disappointing to be honest,” he admitted.
“From a Samoan point of view, we have got the players to improve, the talent pool is definitely there, it is just tough when your squad is scattered all over the world.
“We also haven’t had much continuity; I think there have been three different coaches since I have been involved.
“Personally, I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would have liked so it has been great coming back into a different environment, it’s been a fresh start for me.
“There’s been a lot of change here, everyone is refreshed and excited about something new. It is a real positive environment to be part of with a lot of good things happening behind the scenes.
“I am looking forward to getting opportunities to play with a quality bunch of players.”
Fonotia scored one of the Scarlets’ six tries against the Cheetahs in the 43-21 win over the South Africans at Parc y Scarlets in February.
However, the Currie Cup champions have already shown they are a very different beast this season, tearing apart Glasgow, Ulster and Munster in Bloemfontein before losing out to a last-gasp Connacht try in Galway last weekend.
“It is going to be a tough game, they are not afraid to throw the ball around and and they can be physical as well,” added Fonotia, now in his second season in Llanelli following his short move from the Ospreys.
“Last weekend, Edinburgh got on top of us early and we struggled to get back into the game.
“Nobody wants to come back into a camp and lose a first game, but it was nice to get back into the team and start playing with good mates and get 40 minutes under my belt.
“This game against the Cheetahs is between two teams that play an exciting brand of rugby.I am looking forward to it.”