Glasgow Warriors new signing Lelia Masaga says it was a simple decision to follow his former Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie to Scotstoun, and is looking forward to life with the PRO14 side.
The winger, who only arrived in Glasgow a week ago, is already settling into life at his new club having signed a two-year deal earlier this summer. Despite having prepared for the club’s pre-season while back in New Zealand, he admits the weather on his arrival caught him off guard.
“It’s a lot better now that I’m not so jet-lagged,” laughed Masaga.
“It’s been beautiful for my first couple of days here – the sun even came out! I was told it was always wet and cold here, so the weather’s been kind to me so far.
“I’ve noticed there’s a lot of green here though, so I’m guessing there’s a lot of rain here! That’s definitely a similarity to New Zealand, although apparently it snows here too – it doesn’t really snow in Auckland, so I’m not looking forward to that.”
Masaga was a key member of Dave Rennie’s squad during the Chiefs’ title-winning campaigns in 2012 and 2013, and it took the All Black little time to decide to follow the new Warriors head coach to Scotstoun.
He said: “When Dave asked me if I wanted to come here, I just thought ‘yeah’.
“He has a good understanding of the game and I like the fact his coaching is completely different to any other coach I’ve ever played under. I’ve never played in the UK before either, so to bring my talents and skills here is pretty exciting.”
The 30-year-old remained tight-lipped on the style Warriors fans can expect to see when the new PRO14 season gets underway, but believes the Scotstoun surface will suit his own personal brand of rugby.
“I’ll leave [Rennie’s style] for the other teams to figure out,” smiled Masaga.
“I think he’s going to bring real energy and clarity to how we play the game here, and no doubt we’re going to adapt to his type of rugby.
“The pitch is beautiful. In New Zealand, when it’s a wet, cold, ugly day it’s always a forwards game because the ground’s always ugly, wet and muddy. Here, though, I can’t complain!”
Having worked closely with Rennie during his career, Masaga has nothing but high praise for the coach, and offered some insight into what the Warriors can expect from their new boss when he arrives in Scotland next week.
He said: “He’s a real team man. He’s really easy to talk to, Rens, he’s an open book. You can go to him and he’ll tell you what you need to work on, or how he can help you be a better player.
“He’s a real family man – he likes to work with teams that involve the community and the families, and tries to get that unity in the team. That’s why I wanted to come here.
“Every decision is always hard, depending on where you’re going. There’s some ups and downs, but with Rens I just see how I can develop as a player. To try and stay here with him as long as possible, it’s only going to make me a better player. It was an easy decision, I just had to run it by my family.”
It’s not just Rennie who will provide Masaga with a familiar face, as the winger is reunited with former Chiefs colleagues Phil Healey and Francisco Tavares, who have joined the Warriors backroom staff.
“I’ve been with Phil since I was 16, so he’s always brought the best out of me physically, and is one of the main reasons behind who I am today,” said Masaga.
“He’s built me into the player I am now.
“I first met Chico (Francisco Tavares) when I went down to Waikato – he’s a brainy guy, and if I want to extend my career I’ve got to just stick with him.”
Having just completed his first full week at Scotstoun, Masaga is settling in well to life at Scotstoun, and is getting to know his new team-mates.
He said: “I’m not too great with names just yet, it’s only been a couple of days. There are a couple of standouts though – Alex [Dunbar] has been really good. I was a bit lost initially, but he’s given me the download on where I’m supposed to be and is keeping me right.”
Masaga’s new team-mates should be on their guard however, with the winger’s reputation as a joker preceding him.
“I’ve got to keep the standard up, so I’ve got a few jokes under my belt,” said Masaga.
“I won’t say what just yet.”
On the pitch, though, there is a clear goal for Masaga as the new PRO14 season approaches.
He added: “I’ve never played in the UK, so I’m looking forward to challenging myself against the speedsters up here.
“Why not go for another title though? I’ve got two in New Zealand, so I’ll see if I can go for another one in Glasgow.”