Dale Rasmussen remembers his first game for Worcester very well. He was on the bench for Warriors’ first ever Premiership match, against Newcastle. Then Ben Hinshelwood tweaked a muscle during the warm-up, and Ras took his place alongside fellow debutant Thomas Lombard. He hasn’t looked back.
It wasn’t the first time many Warriors fans had seen him in action, however. That occasion had come five months previously, when John Brain’s National One side marched on that little piece of Somme mud they call the County Ground, in Exeter. It’s a match Ras remembers well.
“I’d arrived back to Exeter on the Tuesday after our wedding,” he says. “They weren’t going to play me because of the 23-hour flight, but I travel well and felt really good. We had a full-contact session that day, which went really well, and I was more than happy to give the match a crack.”
Warriors won 14-25, a record 23rd successive league victory. A week later, they were promoted. A few weeks after that, the 29-year-old was on his way to Sixways, a relative unknown but confident that he had what it would take to establish himself as a starting Premiership centre.
“It all happened a little quicker than anyone expected,” he admits, “but I hadn’t come here to sit on the bench or just train. I’d have gone home and played provincial rugby rather than not be involved. They were exciting times for Worcester. No one expected us to do well, but there was a lot of self-belief around the city.”
If there’ve been few dark days on the pitch since then, the same can’t be said off it. The one difference between life in Auckland and Worcester that he’s never adjusted to is the short days at this time of year.
“I’ve struggled to come to terms with the limited hours of light in winter,” he says. “What amplifies it for us is that we go home in the summer. This year’s been a late summer here, though, so we’ve been fortunate.”
Home is where the Samoan international will head when he finally hangs his boots up, just as it was where he returned to rugby as a teenager, when hopes of an American college basketball career foundered. When the day comes, he knows what he wants to do, and it’ll involve the law degree he’s recently completed.
“I’ve just got to graduate now,” he smiles, “but I’m going to wait for that because I want my parents to see me do it.”
Picture Channel 4’s TV schedules at around 9pm on most days and you’ll have a clue where he’d like to find himself, job-wise.
“I definitely won’t be a court room lawyer – I’m not a big public speaker. And I can’t see myself in an office,” he adds. “But I think I’ll get involved in real estate, property conveyancing. My brother’s a painter and builder and my old man’s pretty handy too. I like the idea of property development and I’ve been looking at doing a bit of land agency work for rugby players.”
Both he and wife Stacey come from large families of eight children, his in west Auckland, hers in North Shore, so there wouldn’t be a shortage of properties to develop, in theory.
Until then, many wintry Worcestershire nights will be spent by the fire watching the likes of Property Ladder, House Doctors, Grand Designs, pointing the finger at the numpty who ignores the expert advice? Not necessarily.
“You learn as you go along,” he laughs. “I must admit, I am sometimes that idiot.”