THE INTERVIEW | Lucio Cinti
SARACENS FANS HAD TO WAIT A LITTLE BIT BEFORE GETTING FIRST SIGHT OF THEIR TWO SIGNINGS FROM ARGENTINA, BUT EVERYONE HAS LIKED WHAT THEY’VE SEEN SO FAR.
Back row man Juan-Martin Gonzalez was first out of the traps after returning from the World Cup, and then centre/wing Lucio Cinti joined him. The two players have history together, not just playing for the Pumas, but also in the Premiership at London Irish and at the 2018 Youth Olympics.
Those were happy days for the teenagers as they scooped a gold medal on home soil in the Rugby Sevens. From there, Cinti progressed to winning a bronze medal at the senior Olympics in Tokyo in 2021.
This year, the next stage in his development was to play in every one of the Pumas’ seven World Cup games in France, where they finished fourth. Twice he got a taste of the quality of the players he would later be joining at Saracens as England beat Argentina in the pool stages and in the Bronze Final.
Still only 23, he has come a long way in a very short time, although his talent was spotted at a very early age. Starting in 2016, a scouting process for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games uncovered González, Cinti, Ignacio Mendy and speedster Marcos Moneta.
Three of them have progressed to full international status, although Mendy and Moneta’s main experience has been in sevens rugby. Over two years, they’ve all worked hard on individual skills, taking big steps towards understanding the game and developing in every sense.
Sevens has been a proven pathway for Argentinean rugby over the past few decades, a springboard to the Pumas in the 15-a-side game. Cinti travelled to Australia and sat on the bench in the unforgettable 25-15 first win for the Pumas in 34 attempts against the All Blacks in Sydney in November 2020, although without taking the field.
Sevens was given priority in Olympic year in 2021, and he went back to the small-side game. It proved to be the right choice as he played a key role, one tackle against the South African Blitzbokke, with his team down to five players, the difference between a medal and failure.
Cinti’s growth was well tracked by the Argentinean coaches from his early days. When he first came on to the radar, they analysed his body size and what kind of development it could take.
“Initially, he was one of many players in the mix. The commitment and hunger of each player has to come from within, and both Cinti and Mendy showed that,” said his former sevens coach Santiago Gómez Cora.
“They live in La Plata, a city some 90 kilometres from the sevens training centre, and had to go through Buenos Aires, and the horrific traffic of a city of 15 million, every day.
“I’ve been in awe of how he gets better in every training session. He has a big frame and is still growing,” describes his sevens coach.
“He is a mature player, intuitive, aggressive, and he makes good decisions in contact. He has a great presence, but his future is entirely in his hands - he has no ceiling on his career in rugby.”
His sevens background means that he has a great feel for space, and he has proven he is as comfortable with 14 teammates as he once was with six.
‘Pulpo’ (Octopus) as he used to be nicknamed because of his long arms and hands, is a big star in the making and is ready to make a major impact at Saracens.