Casey Laulala was the guest on the latest episode of the Cardiff Blues Podcast, as the former fans favourite took a trip down memory lane to reflect on his time at the Welsh capital.
In the first episode since the Covid-19 outbreak, the former All Blacks centre, now based in Paris, joined Mike Brown, who keeps Karl Kruger Williams’ seat warm.
Laulala, who has launched a new coffee company ‘LeCase’, discussed a wide range of topics, from growing up in Samoa to European success with the region.
He also reflected on arriving at the Welsh capital in 2009, making the switch from Super Rugby giants, Crusaders.
Laulala said: “The 2009/2010 season was my first at Cardiff Blues. I joined the Blues at around Christmas time after finishing the ITM Cup campaign.
“It was a really special time and we had a great season that year. When I came from New Zealand, I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.
"But at the same time I was really happy that I could come here with my family to enjoy myself and enjoy my rugby.
“It was a great time to be part of the Blues. We had a game plan that suited me as well. Dai let us play rugby and it was amazing.
“We watched the Amlin Cup final recently, but if we’d won games early on in the Heineken Cup pools that year then we would’ve had a real chance in the main competition.
“We had such a great team and the confidence that we were playing with was really special.
“We were able to play in a way that was really enjoyable and had success from it.
"I had advice before coming over that I would have to adapt. It wasn’t going to be like Crusaders, which was a very different team altogether.
“But I came here to respect the way they played up in Europe. I got on with it and tried to gain the respect of the boys.
“My combination with Jamie was amazing, with him coming back after touring with the Lions. I’d run off him and get the ball off him. We really complimented each other.”
Laulala was educated Wesley College, whose alumni includes Jonah Lomu, Charles Piutau, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Stephen Donald, amongst others.
The former Cardiff Blues star, who also featured for Munster and Racing 92, says he benefitted a lot from his time at the school.
“When I got there, the biggest sell at the time was Jonah Lomu. Jonah obviously started something that we could aspire to.
“I went to school with Charles Piutau’s older brother, Siale, and in the 10 years from 2000-2010 the school created so many All Blacks. It was unbelievable.
“It became a real culture and it was a great school which taught me a lot.
“I still keep in touch with my mates from school, 20 years on, which is amazing.
“From my time there you had boys like Stephen Donald, Sitiveni Sivivatu. And later on you had boys coming through like my brother, Nepo, Malakai Fekitoa and a few of the big boys in the Blues squad.
“It’s definitely created a load of great players over the last 20 years.
“I captained the first team during my time there, which was great. It was a great time for a kid from Samoa, playing rugby in New Zealand, a foreign country, and that was quite an achievement at that time.”