By David Parsons
Keiron Assiratti will never forget April Fools’ Day in 2023 – it was the day his career suddenly took off.
Up until then both he and his fellow prop Corey Domachowski had doubts hanging over their ability, their playing futures and their livelihoods.
Cardiff Rugby were playing Sale Sharks in the Round of 16 in the EPCR Challenge Cup that day and looked to be up against it.
“We knew they had one of the best set pieces in the Premiership and we just said we couldn’t shy away from that. We had to take it to them, we had to take them on up front, and that’s what we did,” recalled Assiratti.
🎙"The fittest I've ever felt"
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) August 2, 2023
And that’s exactly what they did.
Despite the fearsome reputation of the Sharks pack, they got taken to the cleaners as Cardiff gave the Arms Park faithful something to shout about in a 28-27 victory that included a Domachowski try and a scrum penalty near the end that enabled the home side to pay the perfect tribute to their former chairman, Peter Thomas, who had died earlier that week.
“Between January and April I was looking for jobs. My head was all over the shop and I didn’t know if I was going to carry on playing rugby,” said Assiratti.
“Now my head is back on and it feels good to be back in with Cardiff. We were all down in the dumps as a family.
“Then, after the Sale game, I got an email to say I was in the first World Cup training camp. That felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
“The motivation of not being given a chance and then being told I didn’t have a contract at the club, drove me on. For the Sale game, Corey and I just said it was a game in which we needed to show everyone what we were about.
“We did well and then had a good run of games and it was good for both of us. I got a cap and he went to the World Cup – it was great for both of us to be in it together.
“I haven’t had it easy, I’ve had to work hard to get where I am now and all of a sudden it is starting to pay off. Now I just want a good run of games leading into the Six Nations.”
📽️ Matt Sherratt has been impressed by Teddy Williams and Keiron Assiratti since their return to the squad and he believes they both have a big future ahead.
Will be a big test tonight in the final pre-season encounter of 2023-24 pic.twitter.com/QzYXYwGurz
— Cardiff Rugby (@Cardiff_Rugby) October 6, 2023
He may have been “gutted” not to have gone to France with Domachowski, although he admitted to speaking to his big mate every day while he was away.
And now they will not only be reunited at regional level over the next few week, but also with Wales after they were both included in the squad to take on the Barbarians on 4 November.
“If you work hard, you get the rewards. In the past maybe I wasn’t fully committed, now that I’ve had a taste of it I’ve found it quite addictive – I just want to do it more and more,” said Assiratti after playing for Wales against England and South Africa in August.
“Driving into Principality Stadium on the team bus, and running out with the team, is a buzz like you’ve never felt before.”
New Wales prop Keiron Assiratti fulfilled a pledge to his late grandfather after making his international debut in the 20-9 win over England last weekend 🏉#BBCRugby
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) August 8, 2023