After making his first appearance in a Saints shirt on Monday night with the Wanderers against Leicester Tigers A, Saints newboy Jake Ilnicki says that he’s enjoying the atmosphere at the club so far and is looking forward to getting stuck into the rugby.
“It’s been a whirlwind couple of days to get over here,” Ilnicki told SaintsTV after the game on Monday night.
“Just hopping off the plane and getting straight into it was hard but so far it’s been really good. I’m loving the local rugby vibe.
“Going straight in to play was one way to get over the jet lag, that’s for sure. I had a lot of fun out there; I was tired just before the game but getting out there with the boys was great, it’s like riding a bike, you get straight back into it. And the guys here are fantastic.
“They all told me about the local derby and just how much these games mean so it was pretty cool to be a part of that and then get a win straight off the bat.”
Coming to Saints from New Zealand, Ilnicki has travelled a lot recently to play his rugby; starting in the USA in the inaugural season of the professional league, Jake has also played in Australia’s National Rugby Championship before playing at Manawatu most recently in the National Provincial Championship in New Zealand.
“Being in New Zealand was a fantastic experience. I was in Manawatu playing in the Minor 10 Cup which was probably one of my highlights of the year so far.
“Just to be able to play with some of the Super Rugby players, and even a couple of All Blacks, and just learning as much as I can from them really helped my game.
“Playing with those guys was pretty special. You see them on the big screen all the time so going down there and getting to know them personally and finding out how humble they are and how willing they are to help you become a better rugby player was pretty awesome.
“It was brilliant to be a part of that group and that inaugural year in the USA. It was fantastic because as a Canadian I was quite used to going down and facing them but to be able to rub shoulders with them and become friends with some of the players was pretty cool.”
Now joining Saints until the end of the 2016/17 season, Ilnicki said that he is grateful for the chance to play Aviva Premiership rugby alongside some of the players he has been facing over the years in a Canada shirt.
“I felt like I had a pretty good tour in the fall so I was just kind of sitting there, crossing my fingers and hoping that something would happen. This came up out of nowhere and I’m really grateful to be here.
“To be honest the whole Premiership is pretty new to me. I did a quick Google and found out that a few players I’d already been playing against for a while where here and that was pretty cool.
“I’ve got pretty good at getting to know new players but I’ve also picked up a lot from the overall experience of playing in different countries, the fast-paced rugby from the Southern hemisphere etc.
“I’m just ready to work my butt off here.”