It was back to reality for Kieran Brookes yesterday as the newly-capped England prop clocked in for Newcastle Falcons duty.
The 23-year-old became the first Falcon in more than five years to win a full England cap when he came on from the bench against New Zealand, Tom May the last after appearing against Argentina in June 2009.
“I didn’t know that, to be honest,” said the Lancastrian, fresh from his first gym session after the kind of truncated summer break he will have to get used to as an international.
“I suppose it is a bit of kudos in a way for the club, but I am just thinking about Newcastle now and not really worrying about any of that stuff. The only way I will be involved for England again is if I play well for the Falcons, so that is where all my attention is.”
With minimal time to put his feet up, Brookes revealed: “I have only had 12 or 13 days off, but it has been good to spend some time with my family and to see my friends back home.
“From there I have come back and been keeping my new house-mate Calum Green company when he was in pieces after tough pre-season sessions at the Falcons, then it has been back into fray myself this week.
“Hopefully it will be a case of being eased back in rather than being chucked in the deep end, but you never know!
“The lads have certainly been working hard the past few weeks when I have been on my jollies, but I am keen now to get back into it.”
Doing himself justice in his two second-half appearances against the world champion All Blacks, he said: “It was a really good environment to be in, and that not that dissimilar to Newcastle. The week was structured the same way we do it at Kingston Park with a forwards session on a Tuesday morning then defence in the afternoon, and the whole experience was great.
“My dad was over there watching my debut, although partly by chance because he had only flown out for the midweek game.
“Because my cap was so unexpected he had only booked up to be there for the Crusaders match, and when I was named on the bench for the second test he had to get a six-and-a-half bus-ride down to Dunedin to watch the game.
“It was great to have him there and I think he was proud, so it was a special memory and one I am keen to repeat.” Buzzing at the experience of confronting New Zealand’s pre-match ritual, he added: “Facing the Haka was intimidating, but all you can really do is stare them back in the eye and get on with it.
“It gees you up as well as the All Blacks, and you can use it as part of your own preparation.”
Equally enthused by what he has found upon his return to Newcastle, Brookes said: “Things are looking good, and the whole place has had a makeover.
“There has been a paint job to the ground, there are new faces at training and the atmosphere is good. There are major improvements to the whole club, and everyone is looking forward to getting out on that pitch with the signings we have made and playing a good brand of rugby.
“Last year was all about maintaining and not going down, but Dean Richards has made it quite clear now we are looking to push on.
“We will catch a few people out, the new signings look good and we can push ourselves towards that middle part of the table.”