Durutalo talks Tokyo, Eddie Jones and his flying start at Ealing Trailfinders
With four tries and four wins from as many games to kick off the season, Andrew Durutalo has made a flying start to life with Ealing Trailfinders.
On the pitch, the back-rower is a dynamic presence, who has been relishing the 4G surface at Vallis Way as he has helped the Trailfinders to the summit of the Greene King IPA Championship.
Off the pitch, however, there is much more to the multi-lingual Durutalo.
He’s an American international who grew up in Fiji, played Super Rugby in Japan on the advice of the Australian current England coach, and even lived with the greatest Sevens player of all time.
Born in New York, Durutalo left the States when he was only six, heading back to Fiji, where his family are from.
It was there that he really learned to play the game, and he even captained the country at Under-19s level.
He then got the chance to head to Japan on a rugby scholarship in Tokyo, a move Durutalo admits was not an easy transition.
He said: “Fiji to Japan was a culture shock. I was used to the life on the island, where everything is laid back and chilled.
“Tokyo was really fast-paced. In the first few months, I was late to all the practices.
That wouldn’t be the last of Durutalo’s time in Japan, where he had picked up the language, but his next step was to return to Fiji in a bid to reach the 2011 World Cup.
He made the 35-man preliminary squad, but missed the final cut, a blow at the time, but something that would open up opportunities further down the line.
Instead of playing for Fiji, it was the States who got in touch, having realized that Durutalo was eligible to play for them.
He moved to Seattle, choosing them over his home-town New York on the advice of Waisale Serevi.
In fact, it was with the legendary Fiji Sevens star that he stayed with when he first got to the Pacific North West.
Capped for the first time in 2012, he had to wait until 2015 to get another opportunity but it came in time to make his mark at the 2015 World Cup in England, where he appeared three times for the Eagles.
Just as important had been a return to Japan earlier that summer, where an unlikely meeting with England head coach Eddie Jones led to Durutalo featuring for the Sunwolves in the Japanese side’s debut Super Rugby season.
He added: “We played in the Pacific Nations Cup in Japan and we beat them for the first time in 10 years.
“I haven’t seen him since I got over here but I’ll probably try to catch up with him soon. I’ll drop him an email and hopefully we can catch up.
“It was a different experience in Japan, and my first professional 15s team. The Japanese had struggled with the logistics of being in Super Rugby.
“There was lots of travel. We started in Tokyo but then you had to travel to South Africa as we were in their conference, and Australia. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it, even if we struggled a bit on the pitch.”
With Super Rugby experience under his belt, the next step for Durutalo has come in West London, with Ealing bringing him in to build on last season’s third-place finish.
It couldn’t have gone any better in the first few weeks, with four wins and four bonus points seeing them lead Bristol by a point ahead of this weekend’s meeting between the sides.
“I had always wanted to play in the UK,” he said.
"Then the opportunity came up at Ealing. They were looking for a back row and it went from there.
“They set the benchmark last season with their best-ever performance but it’s a whole new season and we’re starting from scratch, so we’ll have to see if we can build on our start.”