Back in town – JJ Gagiano has returned from his stint in Rome.
Bodo Sieber, of the official UCT rugby website, tracked down two times Varsity Cup skipper JJ Gagiano to talk rugby in Rome, America and, of course, the 2010 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International. (Photo Peter van As)
Gagiano has been on the move since the end of the 2009 Varsity Cup, where he again led his side to a home semifinal finish.
Since then, Gagiano has been playing international rugby for the USA Eagles, some WP Super League rugby for UCT, training with the Western Province Currie Cup team and, lately, enjoying a trial period with top Italian club, Roman Praetorians.
BS: Welcome back JJ, how was Rome?
JJ Gagiano (JJ): “Thanks Door, Rome is awesome… it’s a fantastic place steeped in history and the lifestyle is amazing!”
BS: What’s the rugby like in the Super 10? How would the likes of Hammies, Maties or UCT fare in that league?
JJ: “I think the tops sides in the (WP) Super League would compete for the majority of the games, but then the teams in Italy would take it away in the end. There is quite a big gap between the top three/four teams in Italy and the rest, so it would also depend on the opposition. It would be very similar to how Varsity did against Saracens in that friendly at the Green Mile earlier this year.”
BS: Did you play in those European Challenge Cup games against Bayonne and Wasps? What was that like?
JJ: “I was very lucky to play and start in both games, it was an awesome experience, playing against internationals such as Ross Filipo, Joe Worsley and Paul Sackey – it’s great to test yourself against the best and see where you stand. They were both, as you would expect, very good sides, with immense pace, power and skill throughout.”
BS: What has the biggest game been for you, personally, in 2009?
JJ: “Representing your country is always an honour, and the Varsity Cup is an amazing competition with an awesome vibe and crowd. Italy was a great overall experience – from a rugby-playing point of view and the lifestyle. I’m not trying to dodge the answer, but it’s very hard to pinpoint one specific game.”
BS: What’s next on your schedule? Your agent tells us the US Eagles need you again…
JJ: “I’m off to the USA for two (more) World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay – home and away, which I am looking forward to. Hopefully I can be part of the team that qualifies and then represents America in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand – that would be an incredible opportunity.”
BS: Will you miss any Varsity Cup action in 2010?
JJ: “(Laughs) No, don’t worry, I won’t be missing any game time, but I will be missing a few training sessions initially. [Coach John Dobson] Dobbo has given me December off, so I am looking forward to having a good rest and an awesome Varsity Cup campaign next year.”
BS: Thanks for your time JJ – great to have you back in town!
JJ: “Thank you Door, it’s good to be back and can’t wait to be out on the Green Mile again next year!”