American international JJ Gagiano (above with ball) is set to link up with his UCT coach John Dobson in Italy, with the hard-working loose forward handed a two-month trial with Italian Super 10 club, The Roman Praetorians. (Photo Peter van As)
Gagiano is currently waiting on his work visa before he travels to Italy, but the 24-year-old cannot wait to take up the “fantastic” opportunity that awaits him in Rome.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to it – it’s a fantastic opportunity… something of a two-fold challenge,” explained Gagiano in conversation on www.in-site.co.za.
“Obviously it’s a great rugby opportunity, especially with Rome set to play in the European Challenge Cup, but it’s also a fantastic chance to experience something different off the field.
“I remember reading what Dan Carter said when he decided to take up a playing contract in France… Being out of your comfort zone allows you to grow as a person, and no matter what happens I will be giving this trial my best shot.”
Whilst still unsure of his exact departure date, given the wait for his work visa, Gagiano added: “It would be great to meet up with Dobbo again in Italy – he seems to have that golden touch wherever he goes!
“But there is the lure of playing in Europe against the likes of Wasps, Bayonne and Racing Metro and with that comes some great travelling opportunities and, of course, learning about other cultures and, hopefully, picking up a bit of Italian along the way.
“I played against plenty of European-based players in the Churchill Cup,” he added, “it would be great to continue to measure myself against guys like that on a weekly basis.”
Of course, JJ knows that once he gets to Italy – and Rome – his rugby can do the talking. He is obviously hopeful of making enough of an impact during his trial period before once again making his way to America, in November, for further 2011 RWC Qualifiers.
“In a way, the rugby part is a bit easier,” he said. “All I can do on the training pitch and playing field is (do) my best and play the way I always play if I get any game time.
“It would be great to get a longer deal there (at Roma), but I am not looking too far ahead at the moment – all I want to do right now is get my work visa; get over there and impress enough during my trial period to come back again.”
Loose forward Gagiano, who captained UCT in their 2008 and 2009 Varsity Cup campaigns, has played eight Tests for the USA Eagles since his debut in November 2008.