Rugby: Well-travelled Filipo a truly modern player

Ross Filipo. Photo by Getty
Ross Filipo. Photo by Getty
One of the biggest changes in rugby as it continues to get to grips with professionalism is the way players move from one club or franchise to another.

There is nothing disloyal about it. Teams at the top level are ruthless about cutting players and it's only right that the men who go into battle each week retain the right the move if their contract allows it. It's the same in modern-day work life, where the days of sticking to one employer are long gone.

One of the most well-travelled at the Chiefs is former All Blacks lock Ross Filipo, formerly of the Hurricanes and Crusaders, who has arrived in Hamilton via stints at Bayonne in France and Wasps in London.

His experiences of his new team last year were limited to what he saw on television at his flat at Kingston-Upon-Thames.

Now he has arrived at the defending champions he is keen to share what he has learned from his time playing in vastly different competitions.

And while he hasn't been named in the Chiefs team to play the Highlanders tonight, Filipo will get his opportunities over the next few weeks, and regardless, what the 33-year-old offers off the field could be just as important for coaches Dave Rennie, Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry.

"Dave and Smithy and Tom have all stressed to me they want me to play a mentoring role as well in helping the young guys make that leap from ITM Cup level to Super Rugby as quickly as possible.

"I bring something probably a little different to the table. With having played overseas a bit I have seen a lot of different things. Some of the things they do in France and England can work quite well back here, which other teams probably wouldn't expect."

If Filipo is following a modern convention in seeing the world as he plays his rugby, he is also breaking one. A tight forward before his move to Europe, he now sees himself as a No8 which means he will be competing with Fritz Lee for game time.

"Most guys wear smaller numbers as they get older but I seem to be defying age and going the other way."

Leaving the high-pressure world of New Zealand rugby, which is largely player-driven, to Europe, which was more "teacher-student" in its dealings between coaches and players, was refreshing, but he began to miss the analysis and mental challenge.

As for the travelling lifestyle, that presents challenges of its own for him, wife Louise, four-year-old son Cash and two-year-old daughter Kiana. A third child is due in May.

"It is hard because me and my wife have talked about where we are going to put our roots down because we're getting to that stage - once my son starts school we don't want to keep moving him. We want to keep some normality there because he's moved around quite a lot in recent years.

"A lot of guys get to this stage in their career [on short-term contracts] and now I'm in the middle of it. You find in the latter stages you tend to choose an option that's best for you as opposed to what's best for your rugby. It's not just about me and my rugby any more it's about me and my family."

Filipo, on a one-year contract, said he hadn't ruled out going back overseas but could also see himself staying in Hamilton for a few more years.


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