NOT many people choose to leave the Premiership champions for a team in the league below, but Chris York knows a good thing when he sees one.
Just as any stock market speculator latches onto a company on the up, the 22-year-old took the difficult decision to drop down a division and get on board with Newcastle Falcons at their rugby base camp.
The foothills of the Championship’s regular season have proved easy enough to negotiate as ten wins from ten leave them 13 points clear, and after this evening’s home date with Plymouth they will be midway through their 22-game procession to the top spot.
Promotion back to the Premiership then relies on surviving a perplexing play-off concept, the existence of which is yet to be convincingly justified by anybody, but for the time being all they can do is keep on winning.
“It is a bit colder than down south, but the club has been great and there is a really good atmosphere around the place,” said York, who was a central figure in an early-season surge which saw Harlequins going unbeaten into double figures at the start of last year’s Premiership push.
“We are challenging ourselves every week here at Newcastle, and it is an enjoyable place to be part of. John Wells as forwards coach has brought real unity to the pack, and it is just the sort of platform you crave.” Holding down a place in the Quins back-row is a test at the best of times, with York’s minutes restricted by the presence of England skipper Chris Robshaw, international veteran Nick Easter, Samoan hard-man Maurie Fa’asavalu, Saxons cap Tom Guest and open-side scavengers Luke Wallace and Will Skinner.
Three-hundred miles north and the competition is similarly fierce, not that York particularly minds.
“We have a number of top lads in there doing good things, and that is the sort of battle for selection that any team would want,” he said, with Samoan cap Taiasina Tu’ifua, Scottish stalwart Ally Hogg, Kiwi work-horse Richard Mayhew, Cumbrian prospect Mark Wilson and home-grown skipper Will Welch among his back-row stable-mates.
“It was a little bit disappointing to pick up an injury in the final pre-season friendly, but I have got myself back now. It was not a long-term injury so I was lucky to be out for only six weeks, but with the quality we have in the back row it is never easy to force your way in and stay there.”
Much of York and his team’s success this season has been down to doing the simple things well, and there are few complications in a gameplan which revolves around over-powering your opposition and exploiting space once on the front foot.
Having surpassed all opposition in league and cup action this season, they are even beating entire countries now. “We knew Tonga were going to bring a massive physical challenge, because that is the way they play,” he said, having dismantled the Pacific islanders’ pack less than a fortnight before the same nation defeated Scotland.
“If we didn’t front up they would be in behind us at every opportunity, and we wouldn’t be able to get ourselves back into the game. Fortunately we managed to isolate their runners and chop them down, and that is where the win came from.”
Gales and downpours in Jersey followed last week, with the Londoner joking: “Yeah, it was perfect conditions!
“It was heavy underfoot, but we managed to get the win and that was the main thing.”
It was not a day entirely without its wobbles, however, with the former England age-group international admitting: “We struggled in the set-piece early on, but we managed to pull through and get the bonus point.
“We went into the game fully prepared and well up for it, but Jersey threw a couple of things at us that we weren’t expecting.”
Insistent that Plymouth will not be allowed to make similar gains this evening, York said: “We are looking forward to getting stuck into another game and making it 11 wins from 11 in the league.
“We expect another physical challenge, pretty much as we do from every team in the Championship. Plymouth will take it to us up front and pose a challenge in that area, then in the backs they have good width to their game and will make it difficult for us.
“As well as their tight-five they also look for offloads and to get the ball away, so we have to make sure we are playing heads-up rugby and defending well. It needs to be us doing the bullying.”