13 February 2023
“Lucio has gone from strength-to-strength and has re-signed too – he has so much untapped potential,” Declan Danaher said of Lucio Cinti, following London Irish progressing to the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup.
“We have always had an affinity with Argentinian players here, I played with Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Gonzalo Tiesi, amongst others.
“Lucio has a massive left boot, he’s quick but can get quicker, the S&C coaches have told me.
“He’s a strong and physical player who can play wing, centre or full-back, and what’s nice about it is he's one of many young backs like Dykesy [Michael Dykes], Ben Loader, Will Joseph, Henry Arundell – wow, that’s exciting!”
The anticipation surrounding Irish’s backline in recent months has been palpable, with the aforementioned names bringing an elevated vibrancy to the Exiles offensive plan.
A talent amongst the emerging crop in west London is indeed Cinti, whose development this season has been valued by management across different positions in all three competitions.
The 13-cap Argentine international was rewarded with a new contract last week at the Hazelwood Centre, and he can only see his game reaching another level as an Irish player.
Cinti said: “You can improve your rugby always; you never can feel like you’re finished and you can always be better.
“I feel like I am in the right place to do that.”
“Catching under the high ball is what I think I would like to improve on, and my communication with the guys on the field in order to help reorganise them in transition, for example.
“I have practiced on my kicking a lot too.
“I think I am improving in one v one situations and in contact, I also like playing defensively.”
Cinti’s output with and without the ball has been a highlight of recent Irish games, winning two turnovers and making a try-saving tackle on Vincent Rattez against Montpellier Hérault one instance of his clutch performances.
He had a crowning performance in his first Premiership Rugby Cup appearance of the season in the recent semi-final win over Northampton Saints, only further solidifying his status as a fan favourite amongst supporters.
Scoring a try, he also made 61 metres from 10 carries, seven tackles, won two turnovers, and led the game in defenders beaten (four), offloads (four) and clean breaks (two).
He credits the coaches for allowing him to reach new heights as a player and further his chances in the international arena.
“When I came here in 2021, at that time I wanted to continue developing with more gametime and the Club gave me that opportunity.
“I feel like I have improved in my skills and understanding of the game, which has really helped me.
“Brad [Davis], Lights [James Lightfoot Brown] and Les [Kiss] have really been important in that to me, Brad in particular, and have helped me through a big year for Irish and Argentina.”
Testing the development of Cinti and Irish this season was the Heineken Champions Cup tournament in particular, the pacy asset starting all four pool stage games in European competition.
After bagging the second-quickest brace from a substitute in the Gallagher Premiership this season against Newcastle Falcons, he then scored another try against Montpellier a week later – impact.
On what was his debut tournament appearance in the competition, Cinti impressed alongside try-scoring compatriot Juan Martín González, and he and the squad remain determined to qualify for the competition once again next year.
“It was a really good challenge for us, it is similar to the Premiership because you have to be playing at a top level from start to finish.
“Going up against champions of different leagues and going to France and South Africa were unforgettable experiences for and the boys.
“We could test ourselves against different rugby styles too."
Cinti made the second-most offloads of anyone in the Heineken Champions Cup this season with eight, trailing only DHL Stormers' Damian Willemse (10).
“I feel we had a bit of bad luck in a couple of the games, sometimes our discipline wasn’t great, but I know we just needed to be a bit more consistent.
“We had a good idea of what we wanted to gain from that tournament, but the results didn’t reflect that.
“We are still determined to be playing in the tournament for many years to allow us to keep improving.”
Competing in the elite European knockout tournament as a Club for the first time in a decade remains a fond memory of Cinti’s in his time so far as an Exile, with derby day victories also a treasured experience for the Puma.
“My favourite feeling is after finishing a tough match when we win, like last year against Saracens at home.
“When Paddy [Jackson] kicked the penalty to win the match, that was a really good moment – we have had some really good matches against Saracens recently!
“I enjoy the socials with the boys too, we have a tight group and it’s nice to know we can enjoy ourselves together off the pitch too.”
Finding a welcoming group of players at London Irish was always a guarantee but also a much-needed outlet for Cinti, whose challenges stretched beyond time on the rugby field.
Coming to a new country with minimal experience with the native language will throw up strain for the 22-year-old, but the back has now immersed himself in a new culture he revels in.
“The language still I quite difficult for me, when I came here, I didn’t know any English but I have really grown to like life here.
“It’s a big, cosmopolitan city and there is everything here to explore.
“I like meeting new people when visiting the city and seeing new things; the parks, the monuments, and trying the food.”
Now finding his feet with a new life in the capital amongst a contingent of Argentine players, Cinti has pledged his future to London Irish, and he’s only getting started.
“I am very excited about the new contract, it makes me very happy to stay here with the Club and I feel really comfortable here at Hazelwood,” he gleamed.
“The guys are brilliant for me and make it an enjoyable environment – it’s like a big family!
“I want to improve in my game and my English language skills, because I want to give everything for the Club and the team.
“Everyone here is so welcoming, the people who work here work very hard and I really appreciate that.
“We have a lot of potential to keep improving, and we can win trophies.
“That would be massive for London Irish, and it’s an aspiration to help the team with that adventure.”