New boy Tito likes that winning feeling
TITO Tebaldi's broad smile at the Ospreys' press call this week told its own story — a win at last.
It came against Treviso at Stadio Monigo last Saturday and was the Italian international's first triumph in a competitive fixture in 18 months.
Before being part of the Ospreys' 24-19 success, he had to rewind to March 11 last year for his last league or cup victory, when Aironi shocked Munster 21-17 at Stadio Zaffanella.
Last season was a particularly tough one for Tebaldi, as part of the Zebre team who drew a blank in 22 Pro12 games and six Heineken Cup matches, conceding almost 800 points in the process.
But he is off the mark at the Ospreys and hungry for more.
"Last year Zebre picked up zero wins," said Tebaldi ahead of the Pro12 encounter with Leinster in Dublin tomorrow evening.
"So I have improved my record from last season.
"Two seasons ago I won four games with Aironi, the year before that two.
"Last year was very, very difficult. But I play for a very high-level team now and there will be more chances to win games. That is what I want, because even though I haven't won a lot in my career, it is something I like doing.
"I feel I am in the right place for that."
Mind you, it wasn't easy for the Parma player against his countrymen.
Treviso targeted him and looked to rough him up at every turn — the odd late tackle here, a hit off the ball there.
A season or two ago, Tebaldi would have responded and probably incurred the wrath of the referee, but he responds to fire with ice these days, refusing to lose his cool whatever the provocation.
"Treviso tried to put me under more pressure than usual," he said.
"They hit me without the ball.
"But I knew it was coming, so I tried to stay calm and play rugby.
"Maybe in the past I would have reacted, but not any more. I want to improve myself and discipline is a key to getting better."
The 25-year-old made a mark on his Ospreys' debut, tormenting Treviso with his box kicks, one of which included the finely judged effort that paved the way for Ben John's try.
He also defended well and made a series of good decisions alongside Dan Biggar, showing the quality that has won him 16 Italian caps.
His display impressed former Wales scrum-half Robert Jones, who was covering the match for S4C.
"He was excellent," said Jones.
"Not only was his service good, but he kicked exceptionally well and looked sharp technically.
"Considering that it was his first game for the Ospreys, and he's following in the footsteps of Kahn Fotuali'i, he did very well.
"If he carries on like that, it wouldn't surprise me if Italy got in touch and called him back into their squad."
Tebaldi isn't banking on a call from the Azzurri, though, saying: "They announced their squad this week for a training camp for the November Tests and I am not in it.
"But it's no problem. I will continue to work hard and try to win as much as possible with the Ospreys."
The first Italian to sign for a region hit it off alongside Biggar, notwithstanding the fly-half's tendency to leave his half-back partners in no doubt about what he wants.
"I prefer to play alongside a player like him who sometimes screams," said Tebaldi.
"He tells me what he wants, and I like that.
"I prefer a fly-half who does that than a player who doesn't say anything.
"When he was shouting it was positive. That is important, exactly what I want."
Tebaldi has abandoned his English classes, instead preferring to learn the language through exchanges with his team-mates. "I am not taking lessons anymore," he laughed.
"The most important thing to improve is to talk every day with the boys. I did take a few lessons at home before coming here, but I didn't study much, because I don't like studying and I don't like school. But I have tried to improve with my foreign team-mates at home and with the boys here. That's the best way."
Tomorrow will be a notable day for another of the Ospreys' imports this summer, forwards coach Chris Gibbes, whose brother Jono holds down a similar role at Leinster.
Jono has made a major mark in Dublin, playing a key role during a golden era for the Pro12's boys in blue. He is unsung outside the camp but commands oceans of respect in it.
His brother has made a good start at the Ospreys, too, building on Jonathan Humphreys' legacy and tweaking a few things in an attempt to take the team forward.
"It is quite exciting to face Jono," said Chris.
"He and I talked quite a bit about it when I accepted the role. He pointed out that we had been drawn together in the Heineken Cup, so we'll play each other four times this season.
"I know the family back home will be watching.
"One of us will come out on top tomorrow but this is the first of four.
"For me, the main thing is the team performs well."