FREE-SCORING Luke Fielden will challenge Alex Tait for the chance to make the Newcastle Falcons full-back berth a danger role again, according to Alan Tait.
New Falcons head coach Tait made 25-year-old Bedford flyer Fielden his second signing yesterday, after sealing the deal to bring seasoned Scotland cap Ally Hogg south from Edinburgh.
With 14 tries in 25 starts for Mike Rayer’s side this term, Fielden helped Bedford to the Championship play-off semi-finals after stepping up from Cambridge.
The powerful runner crossed for 27 tries in 24 games – bagging five hat-tricks – when making a name for himself in National League One with Cambridge, and now he finds himself back in the North East, where he represented the Falcons Academy during his Northumbria University days.
Impressed former Lions and Scotland centre Tait revealed it was Fielden’s try-scoring exploits, not his existing Newcastle link, that attracted his initial attention.
Backing his new capture to compete for the No 15 shirt despite the ability to operate at fly-half and wing, Alan Tait said the extra pressure should benefit his namesake and established Falcons full-back Alex.
“When I first looked into bringing Luke here I wasn’t aware of his link and the fact he had spent time with us before, so that was news to me,” admitted Tait, “but he came onto my radar because he’s been scoring tries for fun, to be honest.
“I asked Luke what position he wants and prefers to play, and his answer was full-back, which was exactly what I wanted to hear.
“He’s a really confident player, a natural try-scorer and finisher, and that’s what we need to put extra pressure on the back three, and certainly Alex.
“Charlie Amesbury has played well at full-back this season when he has been called upon, but I don’t want to employ him there because I think the best use of his talents is on the wing.
“I think he’s an outstanding winger and certainly for him personally that’s the best place to be playing, especially in terms of his career beyond just the Falcons potentially playing representative rugby.
“He’s a huge threat for us there, so we want to foster that.
“Alex has had another good season, but we need someone to put real pressure on him there for next season, and that’s going to be Luke.
“He’s young and hungry, and that’s the best combination to keep Alex on his toes. We’ve been saying to Alex for a while that he doesn’t have to get involved in every contact, in every tackle situation and carry the ball in every movement.
“That’s starting to sink in now, and what we want him to do is pick his time to get involved, so that when he does he can have the maximum impact.
“You saw that on Saturday, that when he hit the line he was penetrating, and it’s play like that we’re encouraging and we know he can offer. But Luke’s that kind of dangerman too, who can cut the line, score tries and finish chances, so that will spur Alex on too, because he will know he’s got someone breathing down his neck all the time.”
Pleased he has not signed the finished article, Tait believes a punishing pre-season can help Fielden improve quickly and perhaps dramatically.
“I told Luke he could probably be fitter, and he agreed with that straight away – and to be honest that’s ideal,” explained Tait. “I looked around at a couple of players who could have come in, and they were sharp, fit as butchers’ dogs and really pushing hard all the time in the Championship. But they were a bit older a bit further ahead in their development, and I didn’t feel we could have taken them up a notch.
“Luke’s different though, because he’s had a huge impact with Bedford, and he can still improve and step up a couple of levels with a tough pre-season behind him in a Premiership environment.
“He’s seriously keen to get started on that, and we’re excited by just how good he can be.”