Having joined London Irish back in November, Argentine International backrower Juan Martin Gonzalez sat down this week and opened up on his time in London so far.
The Pumas representative told Last Word on Rugby what the differences are playing in the Gallagher Premiership compared to his native Argentina, and yes – before you ask – he has also given his thoughts on the London Irish brew of choice, Guinness.
Joining Irish in mid-November 2021, Juan Martin Gonzalez has seen himself quickly become an important member of the London Irish pack. After having played nearly 300 minutes over seven appearances for the club, he seems to have settled into what Declan Kidney and Les Kiss’ visions were for him [within the team] when they decided to bring him in through the door.
Juan Martin Gonzalez on life at London Irish so far
There’s been a lot that Juan Martin has had to learn and in a very short amount of time but, something that has helped him along has been the people around the club. Definitely, the presence of having fellow Argentinians within the Exiles squad has helped him a lot, and in particular, a good friend of his. This was something he was very thankful for when speaking about how he feels he has settled in so far at the club.
“It’s very good, I love this club, all the people around me are very good so it was easy (settling in). It’s the first time being out (of Argentina) and I love it, I really love it”
As mentioned, it was one fellow countryman in particular who has helped him most so far and that is none other than one of the most influential players this season for the Irish – Agustin Creevy. On the help that Creevy has given him to settle in, Juan Martin said: “Augustin is a very good friend and he has helped me a lot. He’s very important to me. Facundo Gigena and Lucio Cinti are also Argentinians but Agustin helped me a lot. He’s a very good person and a good player so that combination is excellent in rugby so I think he’s very important for me.”
Having played all his amateur and professional career in his native country of Argentina, it would have been understandable had he needed a bit of extra time to adjust to life in England. However, this is no concern of his. He explained that had he come to the club, and been the only Argentine in the ranks, then maybe it could have been different. Juan Martin said: “I think being with people (from the same country) is easy because I think if I had come here alone then it was going to be very hard because of the language. They introduced me to the club well so it was very easy.” Adding “In a few minutes I was friends with everybody but the Argentineans helped me a lot”.
It hasn’t just been off the field where Juan Martin had to adjust himself to a whole new way of life, it’s also on the field too and when speaking about the differences between playing in the Gallagher Premiership and playing in Argentina, this was where he admitted that it’s very different and in a lot of ways.
”It’s very different compared to Argentina, it’s very different because you have a lot of games and every game is very hard, and you can’t lose a game because you will go down (in league places). The competition is very good and the players are top level and I think that’s the difference between (the Premiership) and Argentina.”
Gonzalez immersing himself in London Irish culture in 2021/22
Gonzalez has been an important player for Irish since he joined the club and has no doubt had an influence himself on the pitch in recent times. Contributing to this excellent run Irish are on, where they find themselves 5th in the table and having only lost just three times in the last 11 Premiership games. This was something Juan Martin discussed and was also very happy about even if still remaining cautious saying “they have to go game by game.”
On the club’s recent form and future ahead from here on out, the back-rower said: “I think we are in a good moment, all the players think we are going up and all the trainers think the same but I think we have to go game by game, don’t think too far. Be in the moment. Train like we are doing and play like we are doing, I think we are going to go high.”
The power on show 💪
What a start to the second half for @londonirish with Juan Martín González going over ☘️
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) January 23, 2022
Gonzalez did point out a few final things and what stood out were how easy he felt it was for him to fit into the Irish setup – explaining how similar it was to that of his home country and also how complementary he was of some other teams in the Gallagher Premiership. The former Jaguares player said;
”I very much like the system of London Irish, it’s very similar like we do it in Argentina. So it was easy for me to be introduced in the game.”
”As for other teams and for example , Sale Sharks – they play similar as like they do in South Africa. They are a very huge team. It’s different and all the teams are different but I very much like our system at London Irish because it’s like how I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
Juan Martin also expressed his ambitions to further add to the international cap he received back in July where he came off the bench for the Pumas to score a try against Romania on debut. He also said that playing for a club like Irish in the Gallagher Premiership will only boost his chances of doing exactly that.
He said: “I think it will help me a lot because I will develop as a player and improve so much. I think what is best for me is that I’m playing a lot here and maybe in Argentina I wouldn’t have as much games in a competition so it’s very helpful for me.”
Irish return home this weekend as they are hosts to Worcester Warriors on Saturday afternoon at the Brentford Community Stadium. Gonzalez gave his thoughts on his initial impressions of the green army faithful. And In addition, their support for the team so far as well as what it’s like to play at home in front of the home crowd.
“The atmosphere is incredible, I think the fans that go to game are something you notice a lot on the pitch, they give energy to you and that is like something extra. It’s incredible to play at home and I think Saturday is a very important game for us. Like I said before we think game by game and I think this is an important game that we have to win.”
Of course, no interview with a relatively new player at the Irish-affiliated club would be complete, unless the biggest question of all was asked. And yes you guessed it. It was… “have you tried a Guinness yet? And what are your thoughts?
With that, Juan Martin’s prompt reply was: “Yes I have tried a pint of Guinness. Here was the first time and it’s very huge but it’s good. It’s very good!”
Round 19 Gallagher Premiership: London Irish v Worcester Warriors – Saturday, March 5. Brentford, London
“Main photo credit”
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