Discreet since the elimination of the French XV in the quarter-final of the World Cup, Uini Atonio presented himself smiling this Thursday afternoon at a press conference, two days before La Rochelle-Bayonne. Having just returned to the club, the right pillar of the Blues, who recently retired from international duty, should start on Saturday evening.
What state of mind are you in as you return to competition?
I spent three weeks where I completely stopped playing rugby. I spent time with my family, since we spent four months together (with the Blues, Editor’s note) to prepare for the World Cup. So, frankly, I was happy to come back to the club. Even more when you see the energy there was when all the internationals arrived (at the start of the week). Everyone was happy to see a group of 40. It was the first time that we were all in the same room, with all the newbies like Jack Nowell or the hopefuls who had gone pro. It feels good to see everyone again, even old people like Brice (Dulin) or others (smile).
Do you already feel nostalgic after the announcement of the end of your international career?
No, not at all. There, I’m happy to be in a club, that’s all. It’s good to have a change of scenery. And still work with La Rochelle to seek titles.
I found it a little violent to have lost Sunday evening and to be already dispersed on Monday morning.
Have these three weeks allowed you to “mourn” or will the scar be present for life, as France XV coach Fabien Galthié confided yesterday?
I think yes. It feels good, mentally, to cut. Even if we ended on a slightly… weird note. I found it a little violent to have lost Sunday evening and to already be scattered on Monday morning. But I don’t even know if I watched rugby matches for three weeks, I cut it out completely. Suddenly, I am regenerated physically and mentally. I’m ready to start racing again. And laugh with the guys.
- read also: Galthié takes stock of the Rugby World Cup, relive the press conference
Didn’t you watch the La Rochelle matches either?
Parts of matches but not all. I tried to cut it off completely. Plus, my family came from New Zealand. I took advantage of my loved ones. We don’t see each other often.
Now we have to turn the page
Beyond the brutality of the crash, how did you experience this elimination against South Africa?
Like all the teams except South Africa… When you start at 70 with only one objective – to win the cup – and you fall in the quarter, semi-final or final, everyone leaves with the same… Everyone was disgusted, sad. Four months together is a very long time. And not making it to the end is even worse. Now we have to turn the page. Come back and win matches with La Rochelle.
Easy to put back the yellow and black?
La Rochelle Rugby Club: A Marathon Towards Success
Of course. As I said, there is a lot of energy at the club. Even though we have lost four matches in the first five days, this is not something new for us. The Top 14 is a long and challenging journey. It is not necessary to be in the first place from the 5th day onwards. Instead, we need to progress as a team and focus on our collective objectives. It was a bit challenging for the players to perform with a group of 30, but now we are all back, except for Greg Alldritt who is taking some rest. It will benefit him physically.
La Rochelle Rises to 12th Place in the Rankings
Returning to the 12th place in the ranking does not seem strange to us. Our main goal remains the same: to win titles. Although we are slightly behind in the rankings, it is not a major concern. The team spirit is strong, and we believe that if we start feeling discouraged and sulking, it will negatively impact the entire season.
- O’Gara: ‘Things have to change… I hope it’s not the coach’
The Anticipation of La Rochelle Fans
It’s not just us who are eagerly awaiting the return of the internationals. The entire Stade Rochelais community is excited to see the complete team in action. The upcoming performances will surely ignite the supporters’ enthusiasm. However, building a strong team takes time. The return of the internationals does not guarantee an extraordinary match. We need to play well and start winning matches. With consistent effort, success will follow, just like in previous seasons.
The Teams Hesitate to Face La Rochelle
Interactions with Supporters
From time to time, I come across supporters while shopping. They congratulate me on my career with the French team and ask if I will be back on the field soon. Whether it’s the butcher at Hyper U or the staff at the local rotisserie, everyone seems delighted to see the internationals return. I have confidence in the strength of our team this year, and we must make the most of it. Our goals are ambitious, and we must strive to achieve them.
Maintaining a Positive Attitude
(laughs) The years pass, but apart from age, nothing has changed. I still have my smile and good humor.
Adapting to Change
(He looks at the top of his jersey which only has one of the two European stars) Yes, it’s quite intense during training! Plus, with the recent storm, the stars on the jersey have been slightly damaged!
Excitement for the New Deflandre Stadium
Have you seen it? It’s wonderful! I believe teams will hesitate to come and play here. Except for getting a tough match (laughs), it’s going to be challenging.
Revolutionizing the Automotive Industry
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