Evarn Tuimavave: Hull KR dressing room a good place to be
IT takes a brave man to have a pop at New Zealand World Cup winner Evarn Tuimavave. But the powerful prop admits his prestigious medal isn't enough to exempt him from the dressing room banter at MS3 Craven Park.
Having secured a resounding 44-18 win over Widnes last weekend, spirits have been particularly high in the KR camp over the past few days.
And nobody has been safe from the odd bit of sledging.
"Everyone takes the mickey out of everyone else every day. No player is safe," Tuimavave told the Mail.
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"It's good to have a laugh every day, but we know when to be serious in training.
"Travis Burns is probably the worst at giving it out. When I didn't go to Tenerife he said it was so I could stay at home and smoke cigars.
"If only he knew the flogging I took while the rest of the squad were in the sun.
"But I can already tell it's going to be a fun two years here.
"I'm lucky. Not many people can say they go to work and do something they love doing."
One of the main victims of this week's banter has been returning full-back Greg Eden, the man once compared to Billy Slater by Nathan Brown, his former coach at Huddersfield Giants.
Whilst Eden will never be allowed to forget the comparison by his team-mates, Tuimavave has been impressed with how his new colleague copes with the hype.
"Greg is a promising young full-back who is coming through fast," he said.
"He's living up to the Slater hype so far and hopefully he will continue scoring tries like he did last week.
"When a comparison like that is made, it would be rude not to keep reminding him of it.
"He's taken it well so far, even though he has been injured.
"Greg is a lot younger than Slater, who has been around a long time, but Greg is super fit and if he gains more confidence the sky's the limit.
"I've always referred to Slater as a Ninja because he appears from nowhere to take a ball.
"He's an awesome player and he's one in a million in the things he can do.
"I don't know if Greg is a Ninja in the making, I think he's more concerned about his hair than anything else!"
Behind all the banter and laughter, there is a serious side to Tuimavave.
Few were laughing in the Rovers camp when they fell to successive defeats to Catalan and Wakefield to leave them chasing their first win of the season.
Fortunately, it came last weekend when Rovers blew Widnes away in the first half with 34 unanswered points.
"It was just what we needed," Tuimavave said. "We weren't happy with the second half and we let a few tries in when we wanted to hold them to nil.
"When we were looking at the first month of the season, we had targeted three wins from four.
"We weren't concerned too much because we had a chance to win both our opening games with about 20 minutes to go.
"And we still have a few players to come back into the side which will make us even stronger.
"We know if we can keep the core players fit, we'll be okay."
Gradually finding his feet at Craven Park, last week's performance was Tuimavave's best in a Rovers shirt as he made 20 tackles and an average of 6.62 metres from his eight carries.
Admitting he was "disappointed" with his opening two games, the 28-year-old is predicting a physical battle against Salford's pack in tomorrow's televised clash.
"The whole team didn't play well as a collective in the first two games and I was disappointed with my own form," he added.
"Widnes was my first start, so I'm only going to get better with the more minutes I play.
"There are a lot of new faces in the forward pack and we have to stick together when times are tough.
"Salford have a good strong pack and they have been carrying the team to some extent.
"They are at home and they will be hungry to get the win.
"If we think we're just going to turn up and get the win, that's when we'll come unstuck.
"We have to start the way we did against Widnes, get in the wrestle, complete our sets and don't turn the ball over.
"All those little things will build up to an 80-minute performance."