Romania represents a step into the unknown for much of the Edinburgh squad this weekend and it will be a particularly exotic adventure for their Kiwi No.8 Nasi Manu.
Duncan Hodge’s men face Timisoara Saracens in their European Challenge Cup Pool 5 opener tomorrow and the former Otago Highlander is relishing a new experience.
“For me it is really exciting and that is the reason why I came here to experience European competition and travelling the world,” said the man who co-captained the Highlanders to the Super Rugby title in 2015. “Back in New Zealand everything is so small and you get to go to Australia and South Africa, but I really wanted to travel around the UK and Europe so it is a good chance to experience a new place.”
The 28-year-old, who has been plagued by injury problems since his move north, returned to the side for the 45-10 win over Treviso last Friday.
“I played 70 minutes and then limped off as my legs could not quite go the distance, but it was great to just get back out there,” said Manu, who is expecting another tough run out in eastern Europe tomorrow.
“All I know is that they are big boys,” he said. “I know their front five is usually quite big and we just have to be physical up front. There is nothing like match fitness though and I can’t wait to get a couple of matches under my belt.”
The now-departed Alan Solomons was involved in the recruitment of the former New Zealand Under-20 star and, while sad to see the South African go, he is upbeat about the club’s future.
“It is quite hard to comment, Solly was a good man and a good coach, but as a team we weren’t delivering out on the field,” said Manu.
“That was Scottish Rugby’s call and we are moving forward now under Hodgey. It has been exciting and different and that is the vision the union want to head towards.”
Despite a sticky start to the season, Manu is adamant that the team’s goals for the future should be high. He said: “From the start of pre-season I have wanted to put this team in a good position to win a PRO12 or maybe a Challenge Cup and for me I can do that by trying to better myself.
“The time on the sideline has made me hungrier to be good at my craft, to change my game and be a bit more eh ... not as predictable, a bit less brutal, move the ball around and change the point of contact.
“I love my job. Injuries are part of the game and I have had a lot in my career, but I am excited to come to Murrayfield and train with this team.”
The forward can draw on his experience in New Zealand where the Highlanders rose from also-rans to title winners.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” he explained. “I was there for six years and we went from being the underdogs with no one hearing from us. We had a good start a couple of times before becoming contenders and we finished last. Once we were 0 wins, 10 losses, and I guess for me my role there gave me a bit more responsibility and we got that balance right.
“In each team that balance is going to be different and I think at Edinburgh we are still trying to find that balance of culture and the game. The game has changed a lot and we have to find our identity and our game, the game that is best for this group of men.”
Harlequins thumped Stade Francais 43-21 at The Stoop last night in the opening Pool 5 clash, former Edinburgh winger and Scotland ace Tim Visser scoring two tries for the victors.