Walking into a locker room of entirely new faces for the first time in more than a decade is a daunting challenge.
A language barrier and a weight of expectation made it even tougher for Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley, charged with the task of steering Japan’s Ricoh Black Rams at flyhalf.
With just under a month left in his first season at the Black Rams. he said the adjustment had been a big one.
“It’s definitely pretty confronting when you go into a new locker room, “ he said.
“You’ve got all these unfamiliar faces that you've got to build an instant connection with and go out and play a game of footy with.
“Even trying to connect and communicate on the field was a challenge.”
Ultimately, Foley relied on their one obvious similarity to get the message through.
“The fundamentals are the same everywhere and the guys up here, they’re so passionate about their rugby, they love playing footy,” he said.
“In that regard there’s an instant relationship that we’ve made and hopefully we’ve continued to build that since I’ve been here.”
Since arriving in Japan, Foley has taken some Japanese lessons, with his vocabulary expanding beyond his initial and admittedly basic “konnichiwa” and “sayonara”.
“It’s been a massive learning curve for me,” he said.
“I’ve never lived anywhere with English as a second language.
“The language barrier's been an obstacle but it’s interesting and entertaining.
While his own team might not hold many familiar faces, Foley regularly finds himself up against former and current teammates in the Top League, with more and more Aussies plying their trade in Japan,
“Every week, we seem to play an Aussie - some of the old era, some of the younger era,” he said.
“It’s.great to catch up with other Australians and guys plying their trade over here.
“It’s good to cross stories and some of the coaches that I've had in Australia that are now plying their trade here too.
“It’s great to run into some familiar faces and to hear some stories and get a bit of their local knowledge.”