Dom Barrow is not a man to shirk a tackle, and the Newcastle Falcons lock is equally head-on when it comes to explaining the heightened ambitions of his club for the new season.
The top flight’s fixtures will be announced on July 4, but already the Yorkshireman is setting his stall out to avoid the all-too-familiar pattern of Premiership struggle.
“Not that we weren’t ambitious last year, but we have spoken as a group about what this season will mean for us,” said the Yorkshireman, who was one of the major bright spots in a campaign which saw Newcastle finishing 11th of the 12 competing teams following their 2013 RFU Championship title.
“We have done the promotion, we have done the survival and now we want to push up the league.
“We are an ambitious club, and our attitude and feeling reflects that. We want to strive for excellence, and nothing else will do.”
Low expectations from the wider rugby community could be one of Newcastle’s early weapons after a relatively subdued summer in the transfer market, not that Barrow spends too much time fretting over other people’s views.
“I don’t really know what the perception of us is from outside, but from being part of the group I can tell you we are very hard-working,” he said. “If other people take us lightly then we can take advantage of that and maybe surprise a few, but that is not really our concern. We just want to keep improving.”
The 21-year-old was speaking after his first full week of pre-season training, the Falcons benefiting from a more sensible schedule.
“This time last year we hadn’t finished the Championship season until the very end of May, so the lads only had three weeks off before coming back in. With the necessity of pre-season fixtures to iron out any technical glitches it really limited the window we had available to get that physical preparation in.
“Finishing the Championship so late had a massive effect and we were playing catch-up in some ways on the other clubs who had returned earlier, so it has been good this time round to start from what feels like a level playing field.”
Fresh from a gym session but yet to see a rugby ball, he added: “It has been tough, but we are in good condition.
“We have not had our hands on a ball yet, but that is always a double-edged sword. On the one hand when you are doing ball work it means the fitness can take a bit of a back seat, but it also means the contact work is starting!
“There is plenty of time for that, and we are just cracking on with the physical stuff for the time being.
“There have been subtle improvements to what we have been doing, like working out how we can change our approach bearing in mind the new pitch. It will mean playing more of a running game and covering the ground, so we have really been pushing that.”
Joined in the Newcastle engine room by former Leeds team-mate Calum Green, he said of the ex-Leicester lock: “He is a good lad and a real character, but he is also very useful on the field.
“He is a hard man, an enforcer and a bit of a bully. That is great to play alongside, and really helps the lads out there. We also have John Wells stepping up from forwards coach to head coach, and once the rugby training steps up I am sure Wellsy will have a big influence.
“He has been around for a long-time coaching top-level sides like England and Leicester, and has a huge amount of experience.
“He is a winner on the back of that Leicester culture and mentality, and I am sure that will filter down through the squad.”