GETTING the chance to perform on the international stage is something most rugby players can only dream of.

When he was young, John Cozzi would have been one of those imagining himself representing his country in a Grand Slam decider or World Cup final.

And earlier this month the 34-year-old from Newport actually did make his Test debut – for Finland.

Father-of-two Cozzi started at number eight as Nordic neighbours Norway were beaten 15-8 in the Helsinki neighbourhood of Myllypuro.

The Finnish capital is where Cozzi has lived and worked for the last seven years after moving there from Wales in 2010.

Two years earlier, the former Newport HSOB and Newport Saracens back-rower had been on a stag do in Spain when he met Satu, the woman who would later become his wife.

Explaining his story in more detail, he said: “In 2008 I went out to Barcelona for a stag do and while I was there I met Satu, who is from Finland, in a bar – I suppose it was kismet.

“We kept in touch and two years after meeting I came to Finland to see what it was like.

“Since then we’ve got married and had two children, Valentina and Alessia, who are five and two.

“Valentina is bilingual and actually speaks with a Newport accent when she is talking in English.

“I’d qualified as a plumber from Coleg Gwent in 2010 but went back to school in Finland to study business, and now I’m working in public relations and marketing.”

Cozzi didn’t waste any time finding a rugby club to play for when he arrived in Finland seven years ago – and he had a very interesting reason for choosing the one he did.

He added: “The first thing I did was find a club. Warriors played in black and amber (Newport’s colours) so I picked them.

“They are an offshoot of Helsinki Rugby Club and before this season had been in the league championship final nine years in a row (they won six of those).

“The standard of rugby is probably comparable to Division Two back in Wales and there are probably three or four sides at that level, the others are learning the game as they go.

“The social element of the game isn’t a big thing at clubs across Scandinavia and most don’t have clubhouses. Luckily, we have had one from the start, and that social side of things really helped me integrate when I came over – I got my job through the club too.”

Having qualified to play for the national team on residency grounds, and due to the fact he has two children born in the country, Cozzi was given his big chance the weekend before last.

The latest world rankings see Finland sitting 101st out of the 103 rugby playing nations across the globe, with only Vanuatu and American Samoa below them.

However, they go into this Saturday’s Rugby Europe Conference Two North clash away to Estonia buoyed by that victory over Norway in their opening encounter of the competition.

“In world terms, we are right at the bottom of the food chain,” he said. “But I’m proud of the fact I’m representing Finland.

“It’s really funny because Finnish people don’t quite get it. They think that because I’ve been selected for the team I could get in the Wales squad.

“It was a real honour to be selected for the Norway game and to get a win on my international debut was awesome.

“I’m going to miss the next international against Estonia because I can’t get the time off work but there are training camps either side of Christmas then we play Gibraltar, Luxembourg and Denmark next spring.

“I’m 34 now but I’m hoping to have a few seasons playing for the national team.”