This Is American Rugby: It's your first season at Tarbes. Have you fully adjusted to the team? What attracted you to Tarbes in the offseason?
Inaki Basauri: I've adjusted pretty well to the team. I already knew most of the boys from playing against them in previous seasons and the team culture here is great. I was contacted by the coach Pierre Broncan in April of last year to see if i wanted to come with him to Tarbes. Seeing as I had already tested for him when he was in Aurillac and liking the way he coaches I took the opportunity.
TIAR: How as the season gone for the team and for you personally?
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IB: The season has been going surprisingly well! Tarbes, although they finished 12th last year, lost a lot of their star players to some Top 14/ Premiership teams and high end Pro D2 teams. So when coach Broncan recruited some div 3 players and relatively young unknown players everybody in the french media already had us as one of the teams to be relegated to the 3rd division at the end of the season. Now we are currently tied at 5th place with Brive who were relegated from the Top 14 last year. I have been very happy here since I arrived, playing in almost every match as a starter or off the bench. I was also glad to represent the USA in the November internationals.
TIAR: How would you compare the standard of the Pro D2 to other leagues in Europe?
IB: I don't think I am qualified to compare the standard between the European leagues because I have only played in France and in Italy. But between the Pro D2 and the Italian Top Eccelenza league I think the Pro D2 is a much quicker/physical/ and technical game. Also it is much better reffed.
TIAR: You, Roland Suniula, and Seta Tuilevuka are all int he Pro D2. Do you think the league is a good fit for Americans?
IB: I think every league is fit for Americans. Speaking from what I can see American rugby players have left their mark everywhere they have went from France to Japan to NZ and Australia. And from all the people I know here in France I am always asked about how Scott or Roland or Taku are doing and how much they are impressed with their rugby!
TIAR: What do you think made the Eagles fall tour so successful?
IB: I think both the players and staff bought into Coach Tolkin's game plan. It's a more open game and he has given us more responsibility and let us play more with ball in hand. He has a lot of ambition for the team and believes in us greatly which gives us the same ambitions and belief in ourselves. It shows in the November test matches, the confidence and fun with which we play. And other than that we have a great team captain in Todd Clever. I have been playing with Todd and Tolks since I was 15 and to have leaders like that really pushes a player to work harder and get better. Not to mention the great team dynamic we have off the pitch. They know how to work hard but also to have fun off the pitch. Its always cool to go into a team with people you don't know and to finish off the tour being teammates and friends.
TIAR: With a full slate of matches and World Cup qualifying this summer, what are you doing to put up your hand for Eagles selection?
IB: As for future selections I am working hard on the areas that I need to work on from the feedback I got from coach Tolkin and trying to get as much playing time as possible.
TIAR: You've been in Europe for awhile and have seemed to settle down. Do you imagine yourself staying in Europe when your rugby career is over or do you see a move back to the States?
IB: After my pro playing days are over I want to go back to the States and finish a degree and start coaching and giving back to the rugby community. I have made a lot of contacts overseas and want to help the young rugby talent get their foot in the door in Pro rugby leagues.
TIAR: How do you stay connected with the Eagles coaches and other players while overseas?
IB: I try and stay connected with the players and staff by email, or skype. I also try to go out and see some of the Stade Francais games or Biarritz games when I get a chance. And I'm also excited to go see Fry in action in London. But we are a pretty close team and keep the banter up on the infamous twitter/facebook.
TIAR: What is one thing that you would like people to know about Inaki Basauri that they don't already know?
IB: One thing people don't know about me is that I have a huge man crush on Eric FRY, aka "Fry Guy," aka "Polar bear," aka "Fry Bot," aka "Radar." Its just something about the way he gazes into your eyes... he just gets me.